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1 Whatever subject Prof. Davidson touched, there are always two epithets which may be 
applied to his treatment of it: it is masterly and it is judicial. No one had a better power 
of penetrating to the heart of a subject, no one was more skilful in the discovery of charac- 
teristics of an age, the drift of an argument, the aim of a writer. . . . His mastery of a 
subject was always complete.' Canon DRIVER. 

An Introductory Hebrew Grammar, with Progressive 
Exercises in Reading and Writing. By the late Professor A. B. 
DAVIDSON, D.D., LL.D., New College, Edinburgh. Eighteenth 
Edition. 8vo, price 7s. 6d. 

' A text-book which has gone into its tenth [now eighteenth] edition needs no 
recommendation here. . . . Certain changes, in the introduction of new examples and 
the enlargement of some parts where brevity tended to obscurity, will add to the already 
preat merits and widely acknowledged usefulness of the book.' Critical Review. 

' The best Hebrew Grammar is that of Professor A. B. Davidson.' British Weekly. 

Hebrew Syntax. Third Edition. In demy 8vo, price 7s. 6d. 

' The whole is, it is needless to say, the work of a master ; but it is the work of a 
master who does not shoot over the learners' heads, one who by long experience 
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clearest fashion.' Methodist Recorder. 

The Epistle to the Hebrews. (Handbook Series.) Cr. 8vo, 2s. 6d. 

' For its size and price one of the very best theological handbooks with which I am 
acquainted a close grappling with the thought of the epistle by a singularly strong and 
candid rniud.' Professor SANDAT in the Academy. 

The Exile and the Restoration. With Map and Plan. (Bible 
Class Primer Series.) Paper cover, price 6d. cloth, 8d. 

' A remarkable instance of Professor Davidson's gift of compressed lucid statement. 
... It may be safely said that nowhere within anything like the same narrow limits will 
on get so vivid a view of that period of Old Testament history.' Expository Times. 

Old Testament Prophecy. Edited by Prof. J. A. PATERSON, D.D. 
One large 8vo Vol. Price 10s. 6d. net. 

' This must long remain the standard work on Old Testament prophecy.' Prof. 

Old Testament Theology. Edited by the late Principal 
SALMOND, D.D. (In The International Tlieological Library.} 12s. 

' Contains the essence and strength of the whole work of one whom the best judges 
vc i .renounced to be a leader in Old Testament learning.' Bookman. 

The Called of God. With Biographical Introduction by A. 
TAYLOR INNES, Esq., Advocate, and Portraits. Post Svo, 6s. 

'The biographical introduction is admirable. . . . The sermons have thoughts that 
startle with their depth, they have passages that thrill us with their suppressed 

emotion.' Alu'fifi'i-u /'/' J'ress. 

Waiting upon God. Post Svo, 6s. 

' All through tho book we meet with flashes of true insight and almost startling- 
examples of that deep experimental knowledge of the human heart at its worst and its 
best, which is so characteristic of Davidson's preaching. ... A striking book.'- 

:/ow Ilcraltf. 




A. B. ( DAVIDSON, D.D., LL.D., Lrrr.D. 













FIRST IMPRESSION . December 1903. 

SECOND IMPRESSION . . January 1904. 
THIRD IMPRESSION . October 1905. 


OLD TESTAMENT PROPHECY was Dr. Davidson's favourite study ; 
and the final results of forty years' strenuous thinking on this 
profoundly interesting subject are contained in the present 
volume. The very first winter he was professor, Dr. Davidson 
gave several lectures on Prophecy ; and he was still busy with 
the same subject when, in the end of January 1902, his work 
was suddenly ended by death. 

Every chapter in this book has been taken direct from 
the manuscript lectures which were used by the author in 
his classes up to the last. They are therefore to be regarded 
as giving his latest views, even on those branches of the 
subject on which he published at various periods of his life. 
The elaborate article on Prophecy in the Dictionary of the 
Bible is also from his pen. Indeed, it was almost the last thing 
he published. Now, if any one who has studied that article, 
and has admired its firmness of grasp and its literary grace, 
reads this book and then re-reads the article, I am convinced 
that he will conceive a still higher admiration for its com- 
pressed wealth of knowledge and for this reason. He will 
then understand, better than he possibly could before, how 
wide a range of reading it involved, and how much thought 
and study lie hidden within its terse and polished paragraphs. 
He will, moreover, be enabled, by comparing the contents of 
this book with the article, to see with what extreme con- 
scientiousness Dr. Davidson performed every piece of work he 
undertook. Without reading this volume, no one will be in a 


position to appreciate the pains that must have been taken 
to recast so completely, for .the purposes of a Dictionary 
article, the mass of material used by the author for the in- 
struction of his students. 

The arrangement of the subject-matter adopted in that 
article has not been followed in the present volume. Any 
attempt to do so would have involved the taking of liberties 
with the manuscript far beyond what an editor has any 
right to take. But the way in which the lectures have 
been arranged seems quite natural and sufficiently logical ; 
and though there was not the slightest clue to the order in 
which the various lectures had been delivered, it is believed 
that they have been put into something like the sequence 
in which they were originally given. In all probability, 
however, the whole series as now published was never read 
to any one class ; for, from the amount of material Dr. 
Davidson left, and from the different forms of what is practic- 
ally the same lecture, it is certain that he must have been 
in the habit of selecting sometimes one branch of the subject 
and sometimes another for full treatment, and then going 
rapidly over the rest, as time permitted. 

It is perhaps scarcely necessary to remind the reader 
that these lectures represent only a very small part of the 
work done in the Hebrew classroom to elucidate the 
teaching of the Old Testament prophets. Lectures were 
given only twice a week. On the other three days the 
actual words of some particular prophet were dealt with, 
as an Exegete and Grammarian should deal with them in 
the presence of those whom he has trained to follow his 

The aim of the present volume is to trace the rise, 
development, and gradual extinction of Hebrew Prophecy, 
to exhibit and explain the general ideas which marked its 
successive phases, and to analyse, as far as may be possible, 
the characteristics of this remarkable phenomenon in the 


history of Divine Eevelation. Naturally, therefore, uo 
attempt has been made to deal exhaustively with the work 
of any individual prophet in the way a Commentator or Ex- 
positor is expected to do. Any one who wishes to see how 
Dr. Davidson was in the habit of performing that part of 
his professorial duties, may consult his commentaries on 
Ezekiel, Job, or the Epistle to the Hebrews. 

Perhaps the most unexpected peculiarity of the volume 
is, that the author seems to have deliberately abstained from 
citing the names of individual scholars, especially those of 
recent times, in support of the positions and opinions which 
he himself advocates. This is all the more remarkable, when 
one remembers with how keen and critical an eye, and with 
what discriminating judgment, he had studied the very latest 
books on all Old Testament subjects, as his numerous reviews 
of them abundantly testify. No doubt he does occasionally 
mention some of those whose views must have powerfully 
influenced him at an early stage of his career, and particularly 
the distinguished scholars in his own Church of the genera- 
tion earlier than his own, whom he evidently delighted to 
honour. Special prominence is also given, in the chapter 
on the Isaianic Problem, to Bleek's canons of Prophetic 
Interpretation. Indeed, had I not been aware that Dr. 
Davidson, in his very last session, laid emphasis on Bleek's 
name in this connection, I should certainly have shortened 
his elaborate discussion of this scholar's position. In the 
circumstances, however, and likewise in view of the fact 
that these very positions, formulated about half a century 
ago, have been so recently and so vigorously challenged in 
Scotland, I have judged it best to give this lecture just as 
it was. 

I fancy that the most probable explanation of the rarity 
with which Dr. Davidson refers to living authors by name, 
is that he had deliberately resolved that his opinions should 
be taken just for what they were worth, and be estimated by 


his students solely on their intrinsic merits. He had no 
desire that any views of his should be helped to win their 
way to acceptance by assertions on his part that they 
were also held by contemporary scholars of acknowledged 

It may be that another reason influenced his conduct in 
this respect. In his inaugural lecture, he publicly pledged 
himself to the doctrine that the Bible should be interpreted 
biblically ; and that declaration he loyally kept to the end. 
Hence, instead of buttressing his own position by citing, as is 
so generally done, the authority of other scholars, he adopted 
the method of making the prophets interpret themselves, by 
giving quotations from their own writings, or from the Bible 
as a whole. These quotations, however, were not mere 
texts taken at random from a book given to men in some 
mechanical way as an infallible revelation. They were chosen 
in accordance with his conviction, that each successive gene- 
ration had the divine message conveyed to it through the 
choice spirits of the chosen people of God, the prophets of 
Israel being an election within an election. 

Accordingly, whenever Dr. Davidson accepted a new idea, 
he first assimilated it to his general position, and then ex- 
pressed it in his own characteristic phraseology. If, how- 
ever, he saw nothing true or suggestive in a novel theory, he 
did not trouble himself to state it to his students with the 
object of refuting it. He simply ignored both it and its 

The only other characteristic of the book to which 
attention need be called, is the popular style in which it is 
written ; and this must be done all the more emphatically, 
that I have to confess that in my Preface to his Biblical 
and Literary Essays sufficient justice has not been done to 
this feature of it. So careful has Dr. Davidson been to 
avoid all purely technical language, and so lightly does he 
wear his load of learning, that this volume may be read 


with pleasure and profit by educated laymen who have no 
acquaintance with the Hebrew language. Only in a very few 
instances has it been found necessary to print any Hebrew 

Xow, it is beyond dispute that it is to the influence of 
these lectures upon successive generations of Theological 
students that the changed attitude of all the Churches in 
Scotland to Biblical Science, during the last twenty-five or 
thirty years, has been very largely due. Apart, therefore, 
from its intrinsic value as the work of a great scholar and 
thinker, this book must always occupy a unique place in the 
history of Scottish Theology. 

Finally, there are many who have had their minds dis- 
turbed by recent ecclesiastical controversies, and by the 
bold and even reckless assertions so often made as to what 
must be the ultimate results of Higher Criticism. As such 
men should be anxious to obtain, at first hand, accurate 
and helpful information as to what this Higher Criticism 
really is, they will do well to study these lectures. Every 
one who does so will assuredly obtain a true idea of what 
sane and reverent criticism is ; and he will also be enabled 
to read the Bible itself with a clearer eye and a more 
hopeful heart. 


Novemlcr 1903. 






































PHECY ....... 





































THE Old Testament Theologies, particularly Oehler, Scliultz, and Dilhnanu ; 
John Smith, Select Discourses, 1821 ; Bishop Marsh, Lectures on the Interpretation 
of Scripture, 1828; John Davison, Discourses on Prophecy f 1856 ; Knobel, Der 
Prophet ismus der Helrder, 1837 ; Ewald, Die Propheten dcs alien Bundes, vol. i. 
1840 (2nd ed. 1868, trans. 1875) ; Hofmauu, Weissagung und Erfullung, 1841 ; 
Hengstenberg, Christologie des alien Test." (trans. 1854) ; Patrick Fairbairn, 
Prophecy, 1856 ; Typology of Scripture, 1870 ; Baur, Geschichte der alttest. 

Weissagung, 1860; Bertheau, "Die alttest. Weiss, von Israel's Reichsherr- 
lichkeit" (Jahrbb. f. deutsche Theologie, 1859-60); Oehler, articles "Pro- 
phetenthum," "Weissagung," and "Mes'sias" in Herzog, Encycl. (recast by 
v. Orelli in Herzog 2 ) ; Tholuck, Die Prophetcn und Hire Wcissagungcn, 1861 ; 
G. F. Oehler, Das Verhallniss der alttest. Prosthetic zur heidnischen Mantik, 
1861 ; Dillmann, Die Propheten des alien Bundes nach ihrer politischcn IVirk- 
samkeit, 1868, and article "Propheten" in Schenkel's Bibel- Lexicon ; Payne 
Smith, Prophecy a Preparation for Christ (Bamp. Lect.), 1869; Kuenen, De 
Profeten en de Profetie onder Israel, 1875 (trans. 1877) ; Castelli, II Messia 
secondo gli Ebrei, 1874 ; Duhm, Die Theologie der Propheten, 1875 ; Bruston, 
Histoirc Critique de la Litterature Prophttique, 1881 ; Bredenkamp, Gesetz 
und Propheten, 1881 ; von Orelli, Die alttest. Weissagung von der Vollendung 
dcs Oottcsreichs, 1882 (trans, under title OT. Prophecy of the Consummation 
of God's Kingdom, 1885 ; Konig, Der Offenbarungsbeyriff des alien Test., 1882 
(cf. criticism in Riehm and Giesebrecht), and HauptproUeme der altisr. Re- 
ligionsgeschichte, 1882 ; W. Robertson Smith, The Prophets of Israel, 1882 ; 
C. A. Briggs, Messianic Prophecy, 1886 ; Stanton, The Jewish and Christian 
Messiah, 1886 ; Delitzsch, Messianische Weissagungen, 1890 (trans. 1891) ; 
Darmesteter, Les Prophetes d 'Israel, 1892 ; Kirkpatrick, Doctrine of the 
Prophets, 1892; Driver, Sermons on OT., 1892; Cornill, Der israelitische 
Prophetismus, 1894 (trans. 3 1898) ; Giesebrecht, Beitriige zur Jesaiakritik, 
1890, and Die Berufsbegabung der alttest. Propheten, 1897 (cf. Skinner's notice 
in Crit. Review, ix. 34 ff.) ; Schwartzkopff, Die Prophetische Offenbarung, 1896 ; 
Lb'hr, Der Missionsgedanke im alien Test., 1896 ; F. H. Woods, The Hope of 
Israel, 1896 ; Wellhausen, Israelitische und Jildische Geschichte, 3 1897 ; Volz, 
Die vorexilische Jaliweprophetie u. der Messias, 1897 ; Hiihn, Die Mess. 

Weissagungen, 1899 ; Rud. Kittel, Profetie und Weissagung, 1899 ; Riehm. 
Messianic Prophecy :S (containing exhaustive lists of literature), 1900. 




To comprehend anything respecting the Old Testament or 
the New, we must first comprehend something regarding 
that for whose advantage both Testaments, and all the divine 
revealing agency connected with them, were set on foot, 
namely, the human race ; and in order to comprehend 
much regarding the race, we must comprehend something of 
Him " for whose pleasure they are and were created." God 
Man the Scriptures that is the order : not God the 
Scriptures Man. 

We must therefore assume at the outset that the ideas 
which we have of God or derive of Him from the Scriptures, 
are true, that is, truly represent Him so far as they go. 
The scriptural representations of God, therefore, are not 
merely fitted for us; but they are true, and fitted for us 
because they are true. Now Scripture sums up God's 
character in one word, Love. This is the highest expression 
of His nature ; and in this we find the key to the whole 
history of the universe, to creation and providence. 

Love explains creation : love, as a passive impulse and 
craving, needs something whereon to expend itself; love, 
as an active principle of benevolence, is desirous of con- 
ferring blessedness. This explains the love - relation in 


which newly-created man stood to God. And when man 
fell out of the sphere of this relation to love, and beyond 
the attraction of the great centre, this same love explains 
all the manifold approaches made by God to man, and the 
whole spiritual agency set on foot to reclaim him, and draw 
him up again to his original sphere. 

Of course, this original relation of man to God, being a 
relation of love, is ethical, and not physical. It is that of 
two personalities and wills, even the inferior will being to 
such an extent independent as to be capable of self-deter- 
mination ; and of so determining itself as to stand in 
antagonism to the original will. Man is a moral and 
independent being. The relation in which he first stood 
to God was a moral relation ; the relation in which he is to - 
stand anew is a moral relation ; the means, therefore, used to 
bring him into this new relation must be moral means. 
Thus grace, or the scheme of salvation, is the great moral 
agency employed by God for bringing again His moral 
creature, man, into the perfect moral relation of soul with 

Hence it would be of much service to us if we could 
banish from our minds all distinctions within the limits of 
the human race such as Jew and Gentile, and figure to our- 
selves only a humanity to which God is revealing Himself, 
and which He is by this revelation gradually lifting up 
into communion with Himself. That there must be contact 
somewhere between the race and God is self-evident, because 
man is ordinarily moved by man ; but the point of contact is 
not thereby altered, or raised above or left out of the sphere 
of humanity. To take the comparison of Christ Himself, the 
leaven must first be put into the meal. It will then im- 
pregnate the particles with which it comes into immediate 
contact, and these will lay hold on those next them, and thus 
the influence will run from the heart to the outmost verge ; 
but the particles of meal first brought into contact with the 


leaven have no superiority over the rest. They do not cease 
forthwith to be meal, or to be part of the same lump. There 
must be contact somewhere, but the contact is with the 
human family at some point, central or other. And the 
design of thus approaching the race is that the influence, 
so communicated, should reach by sympathy to the very 
extremest borders of the race; and that all should stand in 
the relation to God that these elements now do, and in a 
relation greatly closer. I think some of our confusion of 
thought and misapprehension of God's ways with man has 
arisen from failing to conceive the unity of the human race, 
and to regard the Jewish people as merely the point of 
union, merely the elevated conducting-rod, so to speak, 
pointing to heaven, and drawing down an influence to be 
distributed speedily over the whole earth. 

Why the Jews were chosen as the point of first approach, 
we may not discover. They, no doubt, had, as a family formed 
under the hand of God, certain characteristics which qualified 
them better than such philosophic nations as those of Greece 
or India for being the depositaries of truth and the mis- 
sionaries of religion. What concerns us is that they were so 
chosen, and that the choice was not of them exclusive of 
humanity, but of them as a part of humanity, as a type of 
humanity as the leaven of humanity in a word, a choice, 
not of them to the exclusion of humanity, but a choice of 
humanity as included in them. The choice of the Jews was 
no more exclusive of the human race than the choice of the 
man, Abraham, was exclusive of the Jewish nation ; the 
whole development was included in the original germ. This 
idea with which Judaism started, it frequently lost sight of 
for a time ; and finally, to the great majority of the nation, 
this, its fundamental truth, seemed a falsehood. Later 
Judaism actually denied the very law of its existence ; and 
even some of the founders of the New Testament Church 
were long in perceiving this law of the kingdom. 


This relation of man to God is the true and final 
relation ; and all other relations, being false and abnormal, 
can be but temporary. This true relation we are fond of 
calling a Theocracy ; and it is presented to us in Scripture 
under three aspects or degrees of realisation, the Old 
Testament Church, the New Testament Church, and the 
heavenly state. These three are one, as childhood, youth, 
and manhood are one. The last is the final realisation of 
the destiny of the race; the others are partial realisations, 
and typical of the highest. The last and highest is capable 
of being presented in the forms that were peculiar to the 
first and lowest : " And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, 
corniDg down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride 
adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of 
heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, 
and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, 
and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God." x 

Paul expresses the same thing without figure : "And when 
all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son 
also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things 
under Him, that God may be all in all " ; 2 and so far as 
the Israelitish nation is concerned, the idea is similarly 
expressed : " Ye shall be to Me a kingdom of priests, and 
an holy nation." 3 This kingdom of God, therefore, will 
first of all unite in one all men, will then unite all men 
to God, and, finally, will have wider influence even upon the 
other orders of creation, for all preparation has been look- 
ing forward towards " the dispensation of the fulness of 
time to gather together in one all things in Christ, both 
which are in heaven, and which are on earth." 4 

Such, then, is the destiny of the human race, and such 
is the relation of the Israelites to that race, merely repre- 
sentatives, or first-fruits ; and when once this is understood, 
we can better understand the means used by God to realise 
1 Rev. 21-- 3 . - 1 Cor. 15- 8 . 3 Ex. 19. 4 Eph. I 10 . 


this destiny of His creature, man, one chief means being 
the dispensation of prophecy. Indeed, in the widest sense of 
prophecy, the whole Jewish dispensation and all the Jews, 
especially the patriarchs, might be called prophets. For 
prophet is little else but mediator ; and the Jewish nation 
stood as the mediators between God and the family of man at 
large, just as the functionaries among the Jews, the prophets 
and the priests, stood as mediators between the Jewish 
nation and God. Hence to a people like the Philistines, 
the Jewish nation, then in the loins and person of Abraham, 
was a prophet. "Now therefore restore the man his wife; 
for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt 
live," x to which the writer of the Psalm refers when he says : 

"He suffered no man to do them wrong: 
He reproved kings for their sakes ; 
Saying, Touch not Mine anointed ones, 
And do My prophets no harm." - 

And even that element of prophecy which is the least 
essential to its idea, though by some misfortune made to 
absorb almost all the other elements in our common manner 
of thinking, the element of prediction, was strongly ex- 
hibited in the. patriarchs and the nation. They were living 
predictions, in their relations to God, of the glorious destiny 
of all mankind in its progressive union to God. 

But when I speak of prophecy, I mean to speak mainly 
of that institution founded as an institution by Samuel, 
though existing sporadically in individual members long 
before his time. And to understand its idea and functions, 
some notion must be first had of the law. For prophecy 
stood on the foundation of the law, and was not a separate 
and independent means of grace and redemption itself. It 
is not quite easy to understand the exact relation of the law 
to the ancient Church or to the present Church ; but this 
at least must be assumed, that its relation to the ancient 
1 Gen. 20 7 . 2 Ps. 105 14 '-. 


Church was not other in essence than its relation to the 
Christian. If a Christian cannot be saved by deeds of the 
law, neither could the Jew, and for the same reason, 
because neither of them was capable of fully doing the deeds 
of the law. If a Christian be saved by grace, so was the 
Jew. Yet if the law He on the Christian as a rule of life, 
so it lay on the Jew ; if it be a pedagogue to bring men to 
the gospel now, it was a pedagogue to bring men to the 
promised gospel then. 

The Old Testament dispensation was not one of law, but 
of promise, " for the covenant that was confirmed before of 
God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty 
years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise 
of none effect." l If the law had been given to the Jew as a 
dispensation of salvation, it would not have been that, but 
a dispensation of damnation, for " cursed is every one that 
continueth not in all things that are written in the book of 
the law to do them." 2 The law as a mere ' handwriting of 
ordinances/ dogmas, or commands, had within it no power to 
save ; men could not keep it. As mere law, it neither con- 
tained within it, nor could furnish any motive to its own 
keeping, but perhaps, acting on a sinful nature, contained 
even a stimulant to further sin. 

Had the Jewish dispensation been one of a promulgated 
law merely, by obedience to which salvation was to be had, 
it would have differed in no point from the heathen dis- 
pensations except in this, that the divine hand, so to 
speak, went right to the human heart of the people, 
and plucked thence the moral law, dimmed and effaced 
as it was, and brought it out and printed it in great 
characters before the people's eyes, that he that ran might 
read. But the Gentile could not keep the law written on 
his heart, neither could the Jew keep the same law any 
better because written on tables of stone. Hence the case 

1 Gal. 3 17 . 2 Gal. 3 1U . 


of the Jew would have been more wretched than that of the 
Gentile ; for in the one the law slumbered, and he was 
unconscious of all the heinous deeds he perpetrated ; the 
other would have been haunted by the spectre of an avenging 
law continually pursuing him, while at the same time 
perfectly conscious of utter inability to keep the law. 
" Whereto then serveth the law ? It was added because of 
transgression." l According to Paul, the law the whole law, 
moral and ceremonial too, as an outward ordinance is an 
addition, a thing not contemplated in the original covenant 
union as necessary, an interloper, in short, till the seed 
should come to whom the promise was made. The law here 
spoken of is not the ceremonial merely, but certainly the 
moral also ; but it is the one and the other, it is both these 
considered as an outwardly imposed command. It is not, 
and cannot be, the moral law as a thing written on the fleshy 
tables of the heart, which is a thing eternal and immutable. 
But the beggarly character of the law, the degrading element 
of it, consists in this, that it was ordained outwardly, and 
in the fact that the promise was not yet sufficient to bring 
out fully its letters written of old upon the heart, and make 
it, as a law on the heart, the rule of life, and not as an external 
command. It was added, this outward command, because of 
sin, i.e. to make men conscious of their sinful nature by the 
opposition within them which this outward law raised to its 
requirements. To such extent had evil deadened the con- 
science of men that they sinned, and were not conscious of 
sinning. The law on their heart was dimmed and almost 
illegible, and they knew not when they contravened it. By 
its being made an outward thing patent to their eyes, and 
being multiplied into multitudes of commands, 2 the people 
had begotten in their consciousness the sense of law and its 
transgression, and thus of sin and guilt, and so were led 
or driven for refuge to the promise. 

1 Gal. 3 19 . * Hos. 8 12 . 


One is almost ashamed to dilate so much on these things, 
but one cannot arrive at a definition of prophecy without 
some such induction as has been made of those things which 
prophecy presupposed. There are thus two great lines of 
influence running through Jewish history, the promise, 
ever growing in clearness, and constantly changing its form 
with the changing history, being uttered through a thousand 
tongues, all prophetic of the coming One in whom all man- 
kind should be brought nigh to God, but which even now, 
though only promise, and though changing its form as it 
developed, was that which drew the Jew into the love-com- 
munion with God ; and the law, the unchangeable element, 
the constant condition of communion with God, a condition 
not preceding this communion but rather succeeding it, not 
bringing about the union, but brought about by it, the very 
element of moral purity and holiness in which the union sub- 
sisted 'the realising of the words, "Be ye holy: for I am holy." 
It is just these two lines which the prophetic order 
seeks to develop to keep alive and to enlarge the sense of 
the promise, the Messianic hope, the theocratic destiny of 
mankind, and to realise the law, the condition and ethical 
element of all theocratic life, of all love-communion with 
God. "The prophets," as Tholuck says, "were the living deposi- 
taries of the idea of the theocracy or kingdom of God," 
they were, in a word, the ancient preachers of the Church. In 
their relation to the law they differ from the Levites in this 
the Levites explained the law, the prophets enforced 
it. They went down into the very deeps of it, and came up 
armed with its fundamental principle, the very concentra- 
tion of its elements into one formula the retributive righteous- 
ness of God ; and with this terrible weapon they sought to curb 
and coerce the idolatrous and immoral leanings of their nation, 
and hold their hearts true to the allegiance of the living God. 
In their rplaijnrj J^f-.hp. promise, Jjigy__^fjiffcr from the 
priests in this, the priests symbolised the promised salvation 


by their acts, the prophets by their words ; the priests 
enter by the blood of atonement into the fellowship of love 
with God ; the prophets by the indwelling spirit. And both, 
when they enter, go in as mediators, taking the people with 
them, symbolising Him who is for us entered within the 
veil, taking all His people with Him. The activity of the 
priests was very much more circumscribed than that of the 
prophets. The activity of the former was very much around 
a single element blood, atonement, being the great invariable 
element imderrunning all forms of the theocratic life ; the 
activity of the prophet corresponded to all the relations of 
life and activity into which the people entered. And the 
Jewish commonwealth was a progressive development and 
working out of the problem of salvation ; it contained within 
it a divine seed which it had to mature into life, and thus it 
went through successive changes, in all of which the pro- 
phetic body, as the bearers of the Messianic consciousness of 
the nation in its liveliest form, had the deepest share. 

This peculiarity, that the Jewish State was at the same 
time the kingdom of God on earth, made the prophets 
statesmen, as being enlightened, religious men ; it did not 
make them demagogues. It made them often, as in the 
case of Samuel, Elijah, and many more, revolutionists ; it 
never made them traitors. It made them occasionally 
counsellors of submission to foreign domination ; it never 
made them unpatriotic or cowardly. It made them rigid 
upholders of the principles of theocratic law; it never made 
them members of an unscrupulous hierarchy. They formed 
no caste like the priests. Np_man was a prophet by birth 
-onlyj)y-divme call. They were called like Moses, as he 
to found, so they to maintain and edify, the house of the 
Lord ; their office being to maintain what he had founded, 
to realise the theocratic union of love between God and 
man, to foster and develop the Messianic hope, and actualise 
the Messianic redemption. Thus they taught the Church, 


warned her, counselled her, consoled her; they threatened 
her, they gave her promises, they foretold her plagues and 
her blessings. They were, in a word, God's messengers to 
her, the channels through which every kind of grace in every 
kind of need was communicated. 

From all this we may safely draw the following in- 
ferences : 

1. As the chief activity of the prophets was directed 
towards realising the theocratic union of man and God, and 
as this union is a moral relation, a communion of love within 
an element of holiness, the prophet himself must have been 
a holy man. This is scriptural as well as reasonable " holy 
men of God spake as they were moved." We sometimes 
fancy we do honour to God when we ascribe great results 
to feeble instruments. I think you will usually find that 
God's wisdom is exhibited rather in choosing fitting instru- 
ments for His great work, than in doing work with unsuitable 
instruments. And we do homage to His power somewhat at 
the expense of His foresight, if we suppose that, having any 
great work to accomplish, He has not ready at the same time 
the fitting instrument wherewith to do it. And the holy 
work of God's kingdom cannot be forwarded by unholy 
instruments. The prophets were holy men, waiting for the 
salvation of God, deeply penetrated by the sense of sin, 
having no hope but in God's mercy, living by faith, and 
working in the strength of the Lord. And it is a gross 
perversion of common sense and Scripture to assume, as has 
sometimes_been done, that such men as Caiaphas. orJBalaam. 
or even Saul, are propbetic_-types. These are the mon- 
strosities of prophecy, proofs, indeed, of what the Spirit of 
God can do, even as the dumb ass speaking was another 
such proof, but no indication of what the Spirit usually 
and normally will do. 1 

1 Cf. the consecration of the prophets, which was a symbol of moral puri- 
fication : Isa. 6, Jer. 1 s , Exek. I 3 . 


2. As it was holy men who spoke, and as their speaking 

was directed to holy ends, so their means were holy. The 

men were moral, their ends were moral (the imparting of 

the love union of man with God), and the means employed 

were the usual moral means. A moral nature cannot be 

influenced by a physical agency. Isro_ amount of__mjracles 

done jjefore a man's eyes will cnnvprf-. Li The prophets 

employed the same arguments as we do still ; they spoke of 

sin, and guilt, and wrath ; of love, and mercy, and pardon ; 

of a pitying Father, of a yearning and compassionate God, 

of the past history of the people,- indeed, of all the things 

preachers speak of still. Their means were moral, rarely 

miraculous. In other words, prophecy is not identical with 

prediction. Prediction is the least element in it. I do not 

know that it is an essential element in it at all ; though I 

should hesitate to affirm that it is not, because almost all, if 

not all, of the prophets in the remains which we possess of 

their literary activity do give predictions. But prediction was 

resorted to only on moral grounds, only as a necessary means 

to shake the people out of their complacency ; or oftener to 

break up in the stormy cloud a rift through which the 

shining peaceful heaven could be seen beyond, to console 

and compose the troubled and trembling heart of the Church 

in the times of her extremity. 

3. Prophecy is thus linked to the history of the Church. 
This point will need further expansion. But we must re- 
member it now in order to comprehend the nature of pro- 
phecy, which arose out of the events and the exigencies of the 
national life. And it assumed its complexion according to the 
character of the era and the events which occasioned it. Of 
course, it wa^_p^_m^relytheshadow of the history ; it had a I 
vitality and an organic development of its own, and perhaps I 
it conditioned and altered the current of the history with \ 
nearly as great frequency as the changes in the history 
altered the form and the colour of prophecy. The two run 


side by side, and follow each other through all the windings 
of their very devious course. Only we must remember that 
an agency directed to the realisation of a kingdom of God 
upon earth must vary with all the phases of the life which 
it seeks to modify and sanctify. It cannot consist of mere 
dead utterances of truth, or of unconnected predictions of 
future events, but must be an historical evolution of truth 
presented in a living form. 

4. A moral being is never a machine. The prophets 
\ uttered truths which had taken hold of their own souls, 
proclaimed hopes which swelled their own hearts, and pointed 
the eyes of their countrymen to glorious visions of a day . the 
dawning of which they themselves bad already seen. They 
knew so much of God and of man and of the Creator's 
designs regarding His creatures, as to speak intelligently of 
the progress, aye and of the dissolution of their own form 
of the theocracy. Thus Jeremiah speaks with the utmost 
emphasis of the passing away of the covenant made with the 
fathers, and of the establishment of another and very 
different covenant : " Behold the days come, saith Jehovah, 
(when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, 
and with the house of Judah : not according to the covenant 
that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them 
by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt." l 
Thus the prophets were the intelligent depositaries and 
exponents of the theocratic idea, which is a twofold thing, 
a union of men with God in the person of the Messiah, 
and a life of men in communion with God in an element of 
holiness, the one the element of promise in the theocracy, 
the other the.j3lem.ent of law. 

This union of man with God, in perfect harmony of mind 
and heart, is the result of historical action along two lines. 
Along one of these God descends, and displays Himself, and 
comes near to men, until He becomes man. Along the other, 

1 Jer. 31 31 - 32 . 



man is raiseclup : _and_enlightened. and purified, until he is 
capableof_receivingjG-od. These two lines meet one another 
in Christ, who is God and man ; and towards this the re- 
velation and life of the Old Testament was constantly 
moving. And as this was the goal to be attained at last, 
so each great movement in the Old Testament history and 
religion was a step towards it. And not a blind step, but 
one the meaning of which was felt with a certain conscious- 
ness. Of this consciousness the prophets were the recog- 
nised interpreters. 

f^rjPPf^jVlrrpA^gpp.p.inny rlisf.inp.f-, stpps may b n "bf^rvH in 

God's method of revelation. In thefirgt. 

clusivelvbv acts, with no acc 

but the meaning of the acts could not fail to be perceived by 
those towards whom He directs them. Thus the call of 
Abraham embodied in it the divine choice or ' election ' ; and 
His bringing him into a new land and a way of life foreign 

to what he led 

life with 

God involves a break, and must, be Jiy^d in conditions alto- 
gejjher^ajjiexed. 1 In like manner the deliverance from Egypt 
was a true redemption, and the settlement in Canaan a true f 
gift of blessing from God. These things were not the secular 
movements of a nationality. Neither are they to be con- 
sidered mere symbols or empty types of future religious 
benefits. They were themselves actually this. They were 
the means of a real intercourse with a living God, a giving 
and receiving from Him ; and through them the religious 
mind was exercised in the very same way as it is even in 
these days. 

Thgn^the second stage advanced one step further. There 
was still the great divine manifestation in acts of chastise- 
ment or mercy, but there usually preceded each of these, or 
went with it, a word of revelation explaining it. This is the 
stage of revelation during the epoch of the prophets, who are 

1 Cf. 'Abraham' in The Called of God, by Dr. Davidson. 


interpreters of God's providences, teaching the people the 
causes and the meaning of them, giving them insight into 
their whole national life as it affected mankind, opening up to 
them the goal of their history, and showing how God's inter- 
positions were leading them onwards to it. 

"Finally^ there comes the third stage in the New Testa- 
ment, wt^ truth is i-.fl.nght. to a PiPrtiftJTl fiYt.P.nt-apari; from 

occurrence or evej^as^-priucipl 68 - These successive steps 
show us the true relation of the Old Testament to the New. 
The Old is a preparation for the New, and marks a certain 
stage of advancement towards it. The remembrance of this 
fact will enable us to interpret the Old Testament properly, 
and particularly to understand the apostolic method of using it. 
There is a double identity, notwithstanding all their difference, 
between the Old and the New Testaments. There is first the 
objectiyj3_Jdentity_, the ^ameness__of_j)rinciples__ajid- truths, 
though in the one case they are not so fully expressed as in 
the other. And thereJsJbhB subjective identity o4ke-mind in 
whichthe__truthjresided. To a certain extent the Old Testa- 
ment writers were conscious that the fulness of the truth 
they were expressing belonged to the future. But the 
apostolic writers usually disregard the human authors, and 
look to the mind of God as containing in it the full truth, 
and as having this in view, when giving any part of that 
truth. Hence the New Testament writers feel themselves 
entitled, when referring to any particular truth, especially 
Messianic truth, to see in the Old Testament germ of it the 
whole truth. The whole truth was in the mind of the 
Eevealer ; He was bringing it out, though not perhaps at 
once : and this aspect of it, which He gave at some particular 
time, carried to their minds the whole. 

But there was an objective oneness as well. Any germ 
carries in it its full attainment. And thus, on two sides, the 
apostolic exegesis, though not what we call scientific, may be 
justified. To recognise this relation of the part to the whole is 


what Professor Beck called ' to interpret pneumatically' 
to elevate ourselves up to the mind and intention of the 
Spirit of revelation, and see His whole wide design even in 
the fragment which at any time He may be communicating. 
This is what others call' interpreting in the light of the end.' 
This end lies in the New Testament. And it is obvious that 
no one can interpret Old Testament prophecy aright, who has 
not observed its perfect development in the New, any more 
than one who has never seen an oak can estimate aright 
either the acorn or the sapling. 



THE history of Israel is a history of prophecy. It is, indeed, 
only in the age of the prophets, who have left writings behind 
them, that we get details such as enable us to make a picture 
to ourselves of the real condition of the people's mind and 
their practical tendencies. We have, it is true, histories of 
the times preceding the prophetic age, and these afford us 
occasional glimpses of great interest into the periods with 
which they deal. But the glimpses are only occasional, and 
it is oftener a picture of the surface than of the heart of the 
time that they show us. 

The annals of Israel, like the annals of all peoples, are 
mainly filled with the records of external movements, with 
struggles against enemies, with heroic deeds of valour per- 
formed by individual men, with changes in the outward form 
of the State and the like. But so far as the religious life of 
the people is concerned, they hardly touch it at all directly, 
We are therefore thrown back upon our own resources, and 
have to translate the external movement into terms of an inner 
life which we must presuppose ; and we have to infer, from the 
outward restlessness and change, currents of feeling, and a sense 
of new needs, and a fermentation in the thoughts of the people, 
which ultimately clarifies and becomes that outward transition 
from one condition to another which the annals signalise to 
us as an external fact. But the real history of Israel is a 
history in which men of prophetic rank and name stand at 



the great turning-points of the people's life, and direct the 
movements. The inner progress of the people was through- 
out guided by prophets who fertilised the religious life of the 
nation with new thoughts, or nourished the seeds of truth 
and the higher aspirations already planted in the heart of 
the people into fuller growth and fruitfulness ; and who, 
especially in the many crises of the people's history, prepared 
for each crisis, as, for example, at the destruction of the 
State, by revealing truths regarding God which enabled the 
people safely to encounter the storm, and not sink beneath it. 

It is the conviction of the prophets and writers of Israel 
that the line of prophetic teachers has been uninterrupted 
since the days of Moses. Jeremiah brings Moses and Samuel 
together : " Though Moses and Samuel stood before Me, yet 
My mind could not be toward this people : cast them out 
of My sight, and let them go forth." l And elsewhere he 
represents the Lord as saying : " Since the day that your 
fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day, I 
have sent unto you all My servants the prophets, daily rising 
up early and sending them." 2 And the representation of 
Amos is similar : " I brought you up out of the land of Egypt, 
and led you forty years through the wilderness ; . . . and I 
raised up of your sons for prophets, and of your young men 
for ISTazirites." 3 The Nazirites were a class dating very far 
back, for in the time of the Judges we find examples of them 
in Samson and Samuel ; and no doubt the prophets existed 
throughout the whole period of the people's history, though, 
with the exception of the prophetess Deborah, we read little 
of them till the time of Samuel. 4 

To say that Israel's history is a history of her prophets is 

J Jer. 15 1 . 2 Jer. 7 25 . 3 Amos2 10 . 

4 A distinction, however, must be drawn between the fact of the existence of 
prophetic men and the name or word 'prophet' (N"^J). It is possible that 
this word is of later origin and usage. This point must be reserved. But the 
existence of persons all through the history of Israel such as were, at one time 
at least, called ' prophets ' is what must at present be insisted on. 



very much the same as saying that it is a history in which 
the moving and significant agent is Jehovah, the God of 
Israel, whose mouthpiece and representatives the prophets 
were : " For the Lord God doeth nothing without revealing 
His counsel to His servants the prophets ; when the Lord God 
speaketh, who can but prophesy ? " x In other words, it is a 
history of revelation, for revelation implies that to certain 
individuals, and not to the people at large, God makes 
Himself and His will known ; and God makes Himself known 
in the mind, and not through mere external appliances 
According to this conception of prophecy, Moses was the first 
of that goodly fellowship ; for though we think of Moses as 
a lawgiver, yet, as he spoke from God to men, he belongs, 
whether he spoke laws, or great truths of the kingdom of 
God, or gave these truths expression and embodiment in 
institutions, to the class of prophets. And this is the con- 
ception which the Old Testament writers entertain of him, 
and which he is represented as entertaining of himself. As 
a prophet, he is, like all the other prophets, a servant of the 
Lord : " My servant Moses, who is faithful in all Mine house." 2 
He says of himself : " The Lord thy God will raise up unto 
thee a prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like 
unto me." And once more it is said in Hosea : " By a 
prophet the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt, and by 
prophets was he preserved." 4 

Consequently, the history and development of Israel was 
started by a prophet ; and prophets conducted it all along its 
course, and led it to its issue. The literary or canonical 
prophets are fully conscious of this. They did not create 
that ideal of the Israel of God which they seek to see realised ; 
they received it from the past. 

It is no doubt the case that some modern scholars con- 
sider that the great prophets of the eighth century, such as 

1 Amos 3 7 - 8 . 2 Num. 12 7 . 

3 Deut. IS 15 . Hos. 12" : cf. Mic. G 4 . 


Amos and Hosea, are to a greater extent creative minds, and 
more strictly authors of the pure religious truths which they 
communicate, than they give themselves credit for being. 
They are thought not to have been able to distinguish 
between the sentiments which they saw to be necessary 
and true, and the sentiments which satisfied a former less 
advanced age, and passed for truth then. Hence the con- 
demnation which they pronounce on their contemporaries 
who do not share their high conceptions of God and morals, 
though no doubt a just condemnation from the point of view 
of conceptions of religion and ethics true abstractly, was still 
a condemnation somewhat unjust in reference to their con- 
temporaries, for these contemporaries really held by the old 
opinions. The chasm between them and the canonical 
prophets was not produced by their having retrograded, but 
by the canonical prophets having advanced. To us nowa- 
days such a question has only secondary interest, though it 
is not without interest. The settlement of it requires a 
review and an estimate of the history of Israel from the 
beginning down to the eighth century ; and owing to the fact 
that the history, as we possess it, is mainly external, and to 
the other fact that it is not contemporary, but written con- 
siderably later than the periods which it covers, and may 
therefore be coloured with sentiments of a more advanced 
age, such an estimate is very hard to make in a way wholly 

Now the Old Testament writers have always a prac- 
tical end in view : they write for the edification of their 
contemporaries. Hence when a writer writes history, he is 
not interested in mere historical accuracy : he is interested 
in making the history point a moral lesson. Consequently 
he may to some extent idealise the history, and also throw 
back into it his own moral convictions which were those of 
his own day, and very possibly, therefore, an advance upon 
those of the time about which he is actually writing. So, 


when a prophet came to write down his prophecies in a book, 
perhaps a good number of years after they were first 
delivered, he did not feel under any obligation to be exact in 
a literary sense, and reproduce his prophecy precisely as he 
spoke it years before. He wrote for present edification ; and 
therefore thoughts that may have occurred to him at a later 
time may be mixed up with his reproduction of the former 
prophecy. It is also a question which I think is worth 
considering, w T hether the modern writers already referred to 
allow to the historic sense of the prophets the weight to 
which it is entitled. The prophets certainly consider them- 
selves only links in a chain. They have inherited, as they 
think, the truths which they desire to conserve and see 
universally accepted ; and it is not lightly to be said, nor 
without the clearest evidence, that their judgment regarding 
the past history of their own nation is historically true only 
to a partial extent. To do so would be to push historical 
scepticism further than common sense will warrant. 

We have some details of the external history of Moses, 
but little is said of his mental history. It is the manner of 
the Old Testament to ascribe all that men do immediately to 
God, He being the real source of all true thoughts and great 
jaeeds ; and those mental movements which we know to be 
always present, when God enters into fellowship with men, it 
passes over. To detect them, we have to read between the 
lines, to carry back into the times of early history something 
of our knowledge of how minds work now, when God is 
moving them. God's revelation of Himself to Moses, and of 
His purpose to redeem His people, was not made to a mind 
unprepared or out of sympathy. We know the earlier efforts 
of Moses in the direction of delivering his people ; and we 
can infer from his act in slaying the Egyptian, and from his 
remonstrances with his brethren whom he saw quarrelling, 
what thoughts were filling his mind. We cannot suppose 
that Muses was a mere mechanical instrument in conveying 


laws to Israel from Jehovah, or in embodying great principles 
of religion and civil order in practical institutions. GUjd_uses_ 
iustroimentsthat are fit. The concurrence of the human 

' ^__ * j _ "~"^ - 

mind with Him, in all that He does by its means, is a thing 
which He always requires, and which may in every case be 
assumed by us. 

It is this concurrence, or the mental range and eleva- 
tion which enables a man to concur and co-operate with 
Jehovah, which is the secret of such a man's power over 
men, and fits him to be the servant of God in leading and 
teaching them. Moses was no doubt the servant of the Lord 
in the same sense in which Amos or Hosea or Elijah or 
Isaiah were His servants ; and from reading their writings we 
know the tension of mind, the high-strung feeling, the play of 
thought and emotion, in a word, the absorbing devotion of 
heart and mind with which they served Him. These were all 
great minds, but their position in history made them no more 
than conservators or purifiers of that which they had received ; 
they could at best give a new and happier direction to, or 
cut a deeper channel for, the current already running. Moses 
stood higher up. He had, so to speak, to open up the 
fountain of truth, to create the consciousness which those 
after him but deepened. And it is with this creative genius 
that we must credit him. He stamped an impress upon the 
people of Israel which was never effaced ; he planted germs in 
the consciousness of the nation which even the thicket of 
thorns that speedily sprang up could not succeed in choking. 

No doubt even Moses did not create a nation or a religious 
consciousness in the sense of making it out of nothing. 
When he appealed to the people in Egypt in the name of 
Jehovah their God, he did not conjure with an abstraction or 
a novelty. The people had some knowledge of Jehovah, 
some faith in Him ; or His name would not have awakened 
them to religious or national life. In matters like this, we 
never can get at the beginning. The patriarchal age with its 


teaching is not altogether a shadow ; otherwise the history of 
the Exodus would be a riddle. Moses found materials ; but 
he passed a new fire through them, and by its heat welded 
them into a unity ; he breathed a spirit into the people 
that animated it for all time to come. And this spirit 
can only have been the spirit that animated himself. 

The early history of Israel, the deliverance from Egypt, 
the unification of the tribes into a nation, their cohesion 
in the wilderness, their conquest of Canaan, and, above 
all, their remaining Israelites, and causing the higher moral 
and religious thought finally to prevail even among the 
native populations which they absorbed, though these were 
superior to them in numbers, all this cannot be conceived 
except as the work of a powerful personality. Even if the 
name of Moses had not been transmitted to us, we should 
have had to postulate some such strong genius as the founder 
of the Israelite nationality and religion. Epr in those clays it 
was really the religion adherence to a particular God, and 
faith in him that created the nationality. Moses did not 
differ in this respect from others ; that wherein he differed 
was in the conception of the God under whose name he 
created the nation of Israel. In that strange story of his 
seeing Jehovah in a burning bush, we have no doubt the 
record of what we may call a religious crisis in the man's 
own mind. It may not have been sudden, though it came 
suddenly to a head. For his seeing Jehovah at last was but 
the climax of a long experience, and was a real vision, as real 
as Isaiah's vision of Him in the heavenly temple. It is 
this religious crisis in Moses' own life, with the higher 
thoughts of Jehovah that accompanied it, which explains 
his action, and the stamp he was able to impress on Israel's 
future life. 

A vast amount of legislative work is attributed to Moses 
in the Pentateuch ; and in forming an estimate of his 
significance as a creative power in Israel, we might regard all 


this legislation as so much material on which to base our 
judgment. But in the face of the critical questions that 
have been raised regarding this legislation, and the critical 
opinion which asserts that the legislation arose gradually, and 
marks, like successive milestones', the advance of thought and 
practice among the people, and by no means forms the start- 
ing-point of their development, this would be an unsatis- 
factory procedure. On the other hand, to assume that the 
critical theory referred to has beyond question established its 
case, would be, at least, premature; for however able the 
theory be in its later developments, and however well, in its 
broad outlines, it gives a view of the history of the people 
and their life and religious development which seems to 
satisfy the requirements of the problem, it is still hampered 
by difficulties of detail, which it has not yet quite succeeded 
in overcoming. 

After all, however, though these questions do affect our 
view of the history of the people as a whole, they are mainly 
concerned with the Levitical legislation, that is, with the 
minute regulations concerning the Priesthood and the Taber- 
nacle. The great principles of the religion of Israel, that 
Jehoyh is Israel's God, and they His people ; that He is a 
righteous Lord, loving righteousness ; that He is a congiaat 
presence among the people, speaking clearly, and not in a 
dark place of the earth secretly ; that there is no God like 
unto Him, forgiving iniquity and passing by the transgression 
of the remnant of His heritage ; that He is to be worshipped as 
a spirit, though with sacrifice and offering, and by the people 
appearing before Him ; and that what He requires is that men 
do justly, and love mercy, and walk humbTy^before Him ; and 
that He has a purpose which the future only will disclose, 
when He shall descend from on high, and tabernacle among 
men, revealing Himself among them as the Lord their 
righteousness and God with them, these truths, and much 
more, are independent of all critical questions. And that 


other question referred to, whether the prophets of the eighth 
century created, or found, the lofty truths which they teach, is 
not of much consequence. These truths are taught by them ; 
and whether they be taught by them for the first time, or be 
several hundreds of years older, can affect us in these days 

very little. 

Therefore I must forbear bringing this legislation into 
connection with Moses, and look at the general impress 
which he stamped upon the people at its origin, and the 
general spirit which he inspired into it. The main features 
of this impression were two : that Jehovah was Israel's God 
ilone, and that His Being was ethical, demanding a moral life 
aVnoug those who served Him as His peoplej and these two 
principles were fused into a high emotional unity in the con- 
sciousness of redemption which the people and their leader 
had just experienced. These principles are, as little as 
possible, abstract or general. But even these simple prin- 
ciples were given motive power, so to speak, by the historical 
experience of the people, by the act of their redemption, just 
as much as any Christian believer begins his life to God with 
the consciousness of redemption and the forgiveness of his 
sins through Christ. Jehovah was the only Being to be 
worshipped, and He was the source of all right and law 
regulating the people's life. A God who gave as the funda- 
mental law of life the ten commandments, could not but be 
regarded as Himself absolutely ethical. He could be no 
nature God, for the promptings of nature are on every hand 
curbed and circumscribed ; He could be no mere reflection of 
the national spirit, for He stood high above the nation, not 
involved in it, nor bound by any natural tie to it, but only 
by a tie of gracious love, having redeemed it : He stood over- 
against it, laying His commands upon it, commands which, so 
f;ir from being the expression of its own spirit, it struggled 
against, more or less, throughout its history. 

These two principles, that Jehovah alone is God of Israel, 


and that He is a Being altogether above nature, a moral 
person, are the principles that have possession of the mind 
of every prophet in Israel. They are principles, of course, 
around which a hundred questions cluster, e.g. whether Jehovah, 
God alone of Israel, was absolutely the only God, the God of all 
nations ? whether He could be represented or symbolised in 
images, or some of His attributes, such as His strength, in the 
form of a bull ? On such questions it is manifest that even 
good men in Israel had confused notions, and only gradually 
were clear statements regarding them enunciated. And in 
like manner, while Jehovah was regarded as ethical, men's 
conceptions of what was moral might become clearer and 
more inward. The great point was to bring the principles 
of man's moral life under the protection and authority of 
Jehovah, so that, practically, as a matter of religious life, 
the people should know of no God but one. Speculative 
clearness on such questions would follow in its own time. 

No doubt all classes in Israel agreed with the prophets 
that Jehovah was the particular God of Israel ; but a theo- 
retical monotheistic faith cannot have prevailed among the 
mass of the people. Such a faith, though only informally 
and indirectly enunciated, evidently prevailed among the 
prophets from Elijah downwards ; but how much older the 
belief may have been, and how widely it may have been 
entertained among the people, the very scanty history we 
possess hardly enables us to determine. Perhaps too much 
stress may be laid, particularly in early times of simple 
thought, on an abstract monotheism. What was important 
was the nature of Jehovah, the closeness of relation to Him 
which conditioned human life, and the worshipper's feeling 
that He was his God. Whether other beings, deserving to be 
called gods, existed and were served by other nations, was 
really a matter of little moment. Even the polytheism of 
the heathen sometimes came practically very near mono- 
theism. Worshippers usually devoted themselves to one out 


of the many gods known in their country; they usually, 
therefore, thought of him as God alone, and gradually assigned 
to him all the distinctive attributes of other deities, and 
therefore virtually, of deity. Thus one can conceive how 
particularism, i.e. the idea that Jehovah was the particular 
GM^TTsrael and of the Israelites, may have had in a rude 
age an educative and religious influence which an abstract 
monotheism might not have exerted. To it, indeed, may be 
due that extraordinary sense of the presence of Jehovah in 
the people's history and the individual's life that personal 
intimacy with God so characteristic of the Old Testament 

These two principles, then, that Jehovah alone is God of 
Israel, and that His nature is moral, along with the memory 
of the redemption that gave them motive power, may be said 
to express the higher consciousness of the people, a con- 
sciousness that never died out. The two oldest written 
documents quoted by Hebrew writers express this conscious- 
ness in their very names. One of them is the Book of the 
Wars of Jehovah. It was the consciousness of Jehovah being 

-- O 

their God that made Israel strong in battle. He taught their 
hands to war ; it was His battles that they fought, and the 
victories which they won were the righteous acts of Jehovah, 
the righteous acts of His rule in Israel. 1 The other was 
called the Bo.k_fli_Jashar^the Book of the Upright. That 
which made Israel's heroes worthy of being commemorated 
was that they were upright and righteous. And the same 
two principles appear in all the utterances and in all the acts 
of the prophets. 

In the writing prophets this is evident on every page ; 
but the scattered traditions of an earlier time reveal the 
same. The remonstrance of Samuel with Saul does not 
need recalling : " Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt 
offerings and sacrifices, as in doing the will of the Lord ? 

1 Judg. 5 11 . 


Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than 
the fat of rams." x The prophet Nathan, by his parable of 
the ewe-lamb, brought home to David's conscience his great 
ski in the matter of Uriah the Hittite ; 2 and Gad likewise 
reproved David's pride in numbering the people. 3 It is 
evident that the policy of Solomon was disapproved by the 
prophets, his exactions and luxury, and the kind of govern- 
ment, more like a despotism than a free constitutional rule, 
which he introduced ; for one of them, Ahijah of Shiloh, 
foretold to Jeroboam his elevation to the sovereignty of the 
ten tribes, even while Solomon was alive. 4 But the same 
Ahijah denounced the wickedness of Jeroboam, and, when 
the king's wife went to consult him regarding their sick 
child one of the most pathetic stories in the Old 
Testament foretold the downfall of his dynasty. 5 In the 
same way Jehu the son of Hanani rebuked the wicked 
acts of King Baasha. 6 And it is difficult to know whether 
the indignation of Elijah was kindled most by the Baal 
worship of Ahab or by his nefarious murder of Naboth, the 
Jezreelite. Indeed, it is not easy to say which of the two 
principles seemed the more important to the prophets, or if 
either seemed more important than the other. It is probable 
that the two principles reacted on one another, and that 
each contributed to elevate and clarify the other. Perhaps 
speculative clearness on the unity of God, as we observe it 
in the later prophets, was reached through the lofty con- 
ception of His ethical perfection, the feeling that the rule of 
the world was moral, and that there could be no ruler but 
one ; but it is doubtful if any priority on the side of either 
principle can be made out. 

At any rate the history of Israel, as we read it in the 
pages of the Old Testament, is the history of a struggle, a 
conflict in which these two great principles, forming the 

1 1 Sam. 15- 2 . " 2 Sam. 12. 3 2 Sam. 24. 

4 livings II 29 . 5 1 Kings 14. 6 1 Kings 1C. 


1 libber conscioucness of the people, are seen making strenuous 
efforts to gain possession of the whole life of the nation and 
to rule it, efforts which the lower tendencies of the people's 
mind, their sensuousness both in life and thinking, a 
sensuousuess ministered to by the seductions of nature, and 
the baser religious rites of their neighbours around them, 
seemed continually to resist. Theoretically, the conflict 
ended in a victory for the higher, as embodied in the teaching 
of the prophets, for that teaching has prevailed and been 
accepted by mankind, and is our cherished inheritance 
to-day ; but practically the lower remained in possession of 
the field. The people would not convert and be healed, and 
they had to be cast out ; though in this the prophets also 
found their justification, for that, which they foresaw must 
be, eventually came about. 

Looking down the history of the nation from the Exodus 
to the Exile, one seems to perceive three turning-points in 
the struggle, points at which, but for the providential raising 
up of great prophetic men, the victory might have been on 
the side of falsehood, as it was among other nations ; and the 
light of an ethical monotheism, and the sense of the presence 
among men of a living God, their Eedeemer, might have been 

The first of these points is the close of the period of the 
Judges, marked by the career of the prophet Samuel. 

The second is the crisis in the Northern kingdom, caused 
by the introduction, under Ahab, of the worship of the 
Zidonian Baal, and the persecution of the worshippers of 
Jehovah, a point marked by the appearance and zeal of the 
prnphp.f-, Elijah 

And the third, which is less easily marked off, is the 
period of the downfall of the kingdom of Judah, previous to 
which a strange recrudescence of heathenish practices seems 
to have occurred, occasioned greatly by the disasters which 
the State had undergone and the miseries of the people, 


which made them turn for help towards the gods of nations 
stronger than themselves, or which produced in their minds, 
if they adhered to Jehovah, a sanguinary earnestness in His 
service, which did not hesitate to offer their firstborn to Him 
in sacrifice. This period is signalised by the career of 
Jeremiah ^Avlia enabled the people to pass through the shock 
of the destruction of their nationality and the privations of 
the Exile, partly by teaching them to look to the future, and 
to hope for that new covenant which Jehovah's unchanging 
love to them could not but yet bring in, but mainly by 
bringing home to the people's hearts the truth that religion 
was not a thing of nationality, but had its seat in the 
individual soul ; that the dissolution of the nation was not 
the destruction of religion, and that whether they were in 
Babylon or in Judea, Jehovah was present, and could be 
served and loved. This truth had, of course, been taught 
at all times, but never before with such earnestness and 
power. It was the truth above all needful for that age. 
The prominence given to it by Jeremiah not only saved 
the people of God from despair at the time, but formed 
the greatest stride which the religion of Israel had made 
for centuries towards becoming a universal religion. 



THE first period of Israel's history is the period of the Judges. 
The book in which the history of this period is embodied 
is the Book of Judges, which is made up in the main of 
two elements, easily separable. Its substance consists of 
brief histories of six persons called Judges, who arose and 
delivered the people from their enemies, and of references 
to six other persons, also called Judges, but of whom little 
historical knowledge has been preserved. Besides this main 
substance of the book, there is a framework in which the 
histories are set. This framework is most clearly seen in 
chaps. 2 6 -3 7 , but it also serves as introduction to each of the 
six histories referred to. It takes the form of a schema, in 
which the same steps are regularly repeated : " The children 
of Israel did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah, 
and served the Baalirn. And they provoked Jehovah to 
anger, and He sold them into the hands of their enemies. 
And when the children of Israel cried unto Jehovah, He 
raised up a saviour to the children of Israel, who saved 
them ; and the land had rest for so many years." The 
movement is always the same : fall into idolatry, subju- 
gation by enemies, the cry of distress, and then deliverance ; 
and it is repeated again and again throughout this long 
period. The framework is later than the histories them- 
selves. It is distinguished by the religious view which it 
takes of the period, while the individual histories of the 

Judges are graphic pictures of the prowess and successful 



daring of the heroes themselves, rather than histories written 
for the purpose of religious edification. These histories would 
be cherished among the tribes to which the individual Judges 
belonged, and have been gathered together from many 
sources. They are certainly old ; in all likelihood, not later 
than the beginning of the monarchy : whereas this frame, the 
work of an editor, is probably nearly as late as the end of 
the kingdom of Judah. 

The question naturally arises, Is this frame, with its 
regular movement of apostasy, subjugation, penitence, and 
deliverance, many times repeated, strict history ? Probably 
it is riot. It is rather the religious philosophy of the history. 
It is a summary of the historical movements, written under 
the idea that Jehovah presided in the history of Israel ; and, 
to bring it down to our own level, we must read second 
causes into the movements and the operations of the people's 
mind. The author speaks of Israel as an ideal unity, and 
attributes to this unity defections which no doubt character- 
ised only fragments of the whole ; for a falling away of a 
whole people to Baal, and then a conversion of it to Jehovah, 
to be followed by a similar falling away again, twenty or 
forty years after, is not after the manner of history, or in 
accordance with the operations of the human mind or heart. 

But though we must take heed to the writer's language, 
and admit that there is a certain amount of the ideal or 
schematic in his representation, there is no doubt that a pro- 
found truth underlies his idea that defection from Jehovah 
was followed by the subjection of the people to their enemies. 
Unquestionably that which created Israel's self-conscious- 
ness was its deliverance from Egypt by Jehovah. That 
which made it a people was its God ; that which made it 
feel itself a people was its feeling towards Him. The 
antithesis between it and the nations lay in Him. There- 
fore, when it fell into the worship of the nations around it 
or of the tribes within it, which it had absorbed, its self- 


consciousness as a people was, so to speak, obscured. That 
which made it a nation, and was the bond of its unity and 
the spring of its strength, was broken. Its high idea as a 
people was lost, and it fell into fragments, and became the 
prey of the more powerful nations among which it dwelt. 
Only when its miseries turned its thoughts back to Him 
who was its strength, and when its consciousness of Him 
reawakened its consciousness of itself, in the words of 
the writer, " when it cried unto Jehovah,"- did its power 
return ; and it was able, in the feeling of Jehovah's presence 
with it, to resist and vanquish its oppressors. 

The whole Book of Judges is instructive in regard to the 
life and religion of the people at the time; but perhaps chap. 1, 
chap. 5 (the Song of Deborah), and chaps. 1718 (the first 
appendix), are the most instructive parts, and the most helpful 
to the understanding of the condition of things as they appear 
in the canonical prophets. JTwo points are of especial 
Jnterest_m^thoir bearing__onthese prophets, and in general : 
first.__the^ political condition of the tribes, and second, their 
religious states As to the first, we observe that the high 
spirit created in the tribes by their redemption from Egypt, 
which fused them into a unity, and gave them such a sense 
of invincibility, and enabled them, in their first invasion of 
Canaan, to overcome the strongest combinations against them, 
has departed. We are introduced to the generation that 
succeeded the generation led by Joshua, and the old unity 
appears almost completely dissolved. The native population 
was not rooted out of the land. The ideal division of the land 
by lot under Joshua remained ideal. The Israel which we 
see in the Judges, and which we read of in the history, and 
find in the prophets, was not the Israel that came out of 
Egypt ; it was a new and larger nation, that had absorbed into 
it a vast native population with a civilisation which it partly 
inherited, with modes of thought with which it could not 
but become inoculated, and with religious practices which 


it could riot help in many cases adopting as its own. 
The Israel of Moses, and' the Israel with which history 

has to deal, arc dili'erent in quantity, and even more in 

Again, we observe a disintegration going on in the unity 
of the people. As we observe the tribes in Canaan, they 
are little interested in each other ; each of them is settling 
down in earnest to secure its own footing, and provide for 
its own preservation. The judges who arise belong to the 
individual tribes, and rarely secure in their warfare the 
adhesion of more than two or three of the others. The king 
of Moab invades Benjamin, and Ehud the Benjamite avenges 
the wrongs of his tribe ; Jephthah leads at most against the 
children of Ammon the trans-Jordanic tribes ; Gideon pursues 
the Midianites with three hundred men of his own family of 

But notwithstanding that there is no real union of the 
tribes, the nearest approach to it being secured by Deborah, 
there is an ideal unity. Even when a single tribe acts, or 
when a judge delivers a single tribe, the history speaks of 
him as saving 'Israel.' And it is not only in the prose 
part that this mode of speech prevails, in which it might 
be due to later conceptions, and to a point of view taken 
after the rise of the kingdom ; the same manner of speaking 
appears in the Song of Deborah : 

" Eor that the chieftains came forward in Israel, 
For that the people offered themselves willingly, 
Bless ye Jehovah. 1 

My heart is toward the governors of Israel, 
That offered themselves willingly among the people, 
Bless ye Jehovah. 2 

Judg. 5 2 . 2 Judg. 5 9 . 


Was there a shield or spear seen 
Among forty thousand in Israel ? l 
' ' 

The rulers ceased in Israel, they ceased, 
Until that I Deborah arose, 
That I arose a mother in Israel." 2 

In spite of actual disintegration, the conception of an Israel 
/forming a unity, the people of Jehovah, 3 everywhere appears. 
In one remarkable point, extremely significant in regard to 
subsequent history, there appears a breach in the unity. 
The term Israel appears to be applied to the tribes north of 
Benjamin. Judah is not referred to in Deborah's song. 
While she satirises the other tribes that failed to take part 
in the struggle, she has no word of blame for the powerful 
Southern tribe. Apparently Judah was not expected to 
join the confederation. 

In short, we observe already in this early time that 
political fracture which afterwards widened into the two 
eparate kingdoms of Israel and Judah. The two powerful 
ribes, Ephraim and Judah, had already begun to pursue 
ach its own course ; and the smaller tribes were attracted 
round Ephraim, which early aspired to the leadership, as 
we observe from its interference in the struggles carried 
on both by Gideon and Jephthah. On the other hand, 
Judah with a poorer soil and less powerful neighbours, 
except on the Philistine border, seems to have detached 
itself early from the other tribes, and devoted itself to its 
own occupations. This tribe also, as well as the others, 
absorbed into itself a large amount of foreign blood, e.g. the 
Kenites. But there is this great difference. The elements 
absorbed by Ephraim and the Northern tribes were the 
n;i live Canaanites, with their debased worship, in which even 
immorality was an element; but the tribes that entered into 
1 Judg. 5 8 . 2 Judg. 5 7 . s Judg. 5 n . 


Juclah were nomadic Arabs, whose morals were purer and 
whose religion and worship were more elevated. It is even 
argued by some writers that it was to the Kenites to 
whom Moses' father-in-law belonged that the Israelites 
owed their conception of Jehovah and even His name. At 
any rate, we can see how^Iudah in great ineasure_ escaped the 
moral taint with which familiarity with the Baal worship 
infected Israel. 

Apart from the frame, very little appears in the narra- 
tives to cast light on the religious condition of the people. 
The central sanctuary was no doubt at Shiloh, though it is 
mentioned only once in the narrative as a place where a 
yearly dance of young maidens took place, presumably in 
connection with some of the yearly feasts. The narrative 
in chap. 1, detailing the intermixture of Israel with the 
native inhabitants, and, in spite of the ideal unity, the prac- 
tical isolation of the individual tribes, suggests that the same 
process of disintegration, which went on in the political 
sphere, manifested itself also JuJihe sph^re-ef religion. The 
individual tribes probably provided each for itself its re- 
ligious institutions. ^ jNiev__ad opted the places of worship 
already existing among the Canaanitqs. Both Deuteronomy 
and Ezekiel suggest that the high places were original 
Canaanitish shrines. In Dent. 12 2 we read: "Ye shall 
utterly destroy. .alL-tlie-.places-wliereiii the nations which ye 
shall possess served ^tti^ir^gods j ,_urjon Jhe high mountains, and 
upon the N hjJla^jid^-Ur&4er-~FVBTy- green tree. And ye shall 
overthrow their altars, and break down their pillars, and 
burn their Asheras with fire." In Ezek. 20 27 : "Yet in this 
your fathers have blasphemed Me . . . for when I had brought 
them into the land which I had sworn to give them, 
then they saw every high hill, and all the thick trees, and 
they offered there their sacrifices, and there they presented 
the provocation of their offering. . . . Then said I, What is 
the high place (Banian) whereto ye go ? And the name 


thereof is called Bamah unto this day." The syncretism 
would not stop with the adoption of the places of worship ; 
^ many also of the religious practices would be adopted into 
the service of Jehovah, for Canaanites and Israelites wor- 
shipped at the same altar. Here and there where the two 
peoples coalesced by intermarriage, or where the aborigines 
outnumbered the Israelites, and the lines of distinction 
became effaced, the worship of Baal and the Astartes would 
entirely supersede the worship of Jehovah. And even where 
it did not, it is probable that, as there were images in the 
Cauaanitish temples on the high places, these would be 
imitated, and the same or similar figures taken to represent 
Jehovah. The author of the ' frame ' speaks very generally, 

aying that the people worshipped the Baals and the Astartes. 
We have difficulty in correctly interpreting this. The Baals 
came^a general phrase to express not only the actual Baals, 

nit also the images of Jehovah, and even the heathenish 

node of sacrificing to Jehovah with riotous revelry. Already 

his meaning appears in Hosea. 

It is, in fact, the conviction of all the prophets that 
a fatal deterioration of the people took place after their 
entrance into Canaan. Jeremiah represents Jehovah as thus 
addressing the people of his own time : " What evil did 
your fathers find in Me, that they went far away from Me ? 
I brought you into a plentiful country, to eat the fruit thereof 
and the goodness thereof; but when ye entered, ye defiled 
My land, and made Mine inheritance an abomination." 1 

Some explanation of this degeneration must, of course, 
be sought. Probably we shall not be far wrong in repre- 
senting the state of things to ourselves somewhat as follows : 
The Israelites did not pass over to the acknowledgment of 
the Baals or the Astartes as deities distinct from Jehovah. 
It was Jehovah whom they consciously served ; but, wor- 
shipping Him along with Canaanites and at the same shrines, 

1 Jer. 2 5 . 


they may have adopted the same forms and practices of 
worship as the Canaanites, and thus gradually the character- 
istic qualities of Baal might be assigned to Jehovah, or at 
least the strict distinction in idea between them might cease 
to be felt. This would be particularly the case with the 
absorbed Canaanites, who, if they worshipped Jehovah, seeing 
He had now taken possession of the land, would assign to 
Him the attributes they had formerly assigned to Baal and 
their native deities. This syncretism or amalgamation of 
the two religions would become specially manifest in the 
second generation, the descendants of Israelites intermarrying 
with Canaanites. Of course this would not be universal. 
And the history expressly states that the religious corruption 
did not begin till the death of Joshua, or rather till the 
disappearance of the generation whom he led into Canaan. It 
was in the next generation and onwards that the syncretism 
of the Baal and the Jehovah religions appeared through the 
importation of Baal elements into the worship of Jehovah. 

Yet in spite of all this tendency to decline in the re- 
ligious life of the people, we observe, just as in the political 
sphere, that the ideal unity was still preserved. Jehovah 
was the God of Israel. However mean and unworthy the 
people's conceptions of Him were, it was He to whom the 
people belonged. It was to Jehovah that Jephthah made 
his fatal vow, he spake all his words before the Lord in 
Mizpeh. It was to Jehovah that Gideon dedicated the spoils 
taken from the Midianites ; and out of these he framed a 
molten image, no doubt of Jehovah, which he set up in his 
house. It was to Jehovah that the mother of Micah dedicated 
the eleven hundred pieces of silver, out of which her son made 
a molten image, which ultimately the marauding Danites 
stole and set up in Dan, another forestalment in this early 
age of subsequent proceedings. But.Jt is in the Song of 
Deborah that the ideal unity of the worship and the higher_ 
conceptions of Jehovah appear most clearly. If we had a 


few more poems by prophetic minds such as this, and not 
the external histories of rude soldiers, such as unfortunately 
we possess alone, we should, I believe, be able to form a 
higher idea even of the religious condition of the people 
under the Judges. It is Deborah who says : 

" I, even I, will sing unto Jehovah, 
I will sing praise to Jehovah, the God of Israel." x 

It is Jehovah who fights Israel's battles : 

" They shall rehearse the righteous acts of Jehovah, 
The righteous acts of His rule in Israel ; 
Then the people of Jehovah went down to the gates." 2 

The angel of Jehovah, that is, himself in his personal 
presence, leads Israel's armies, and pursues his foes. Hence 
we read : 

" Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of Jehovah, 
Curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof ; 
Because they came not to the help of Jehovah, 
To the help of Jehovah among the mighty." 3 

When we remember that Jephthah sacrificed his daughter, 
and that even Gideon set up a molten image to Jehovah, 
we might suppose that the conceptions formed of Jehovah 
were not very elevated. Yet, in the Song, we observe Him 
regarded as ruling in heaven and on earth, commanding 
the stars in their courses, and the rivers as they flow : 

" They fought from heaven ; 
The stars in their courses fought against Sisera. 
The river Kishon swept them away, 
That ancient river, the river Kishon." 4 

But strong as is the faith in Jehovah's power which this 
Uudg. 6 3 . B Judg. 5". 8 Judg. 5 s3 . 4 Judg. 5-- 21 . 


song manifests, the loftiest and most touching thought in it 
is that which the last stanza contains : 

" But let them that love Him 
Be as the sun going forth in his might." l 

The period of the Judges, rightly understood, supplies the 
key to the religious history of Israel. A new nation was in 
process of being formed, a nation that had to assimilate the 
mass of the Canaanites with their thought and principles. 
Their religion as well as their morals entered, during this 
period, into the life of Israel ; and just because the Cauaan- 
ites themselves became Israelites, did the Mosaic religion 
require ages to assimilate these alien elements, and permeate 
the whole nation with its own higher principles. Hence this 
period is the creative epoch of historical Israel, the work- 
shop in which the nation, as we know it, was fashioned. 
In the Book of Judges we are shown the origin of that 
complication which the canonical prophets have to unravel ; 
the knot is being tied which they require all their efforts 
to unloose. The higher spirit and faith of the nation has 
presented for its assimilation a mass of lower conceptions 
which it is unable at once to overcome and dominate. Yet 
it does not allow itself to lose courage. It is assured of final 

1 Judg. 5 31 . 



WHEN we read the prophets and observe that their conflict 
against the people's thought and practice is invariably carried 
on along two great lines, first, along the line of Jehovah's 
sole Godhead, and secondly, along the line of His spirituality 
and ethical nature, we are apt to think that the Israel of 
the Exodus must have stood on a very low level, since even 
in the prophetic age it presents the aspect which it does. 
But as soon as we call to mind the mass of heathenish 
materials which the nation absorbed in taking possession of 
Caanan, we are better able to understand the course of 
development and the protracted struggle of the prophets 
The consciousness of unity in Israel, whether political or 
religious, unquestionably ran a great risk, during the time of 
the Judges, of being overcome by the elements making for 
disintegration. This crisis was met by Samuel, who gave 
the needful direction to the higher elements in the nation. 

Our review of the period of the Judges showed that 
while the Israel of that age had not lost the ideals of an 
earlier period, it had fallen far short of realising them. The 
ideal unity of the tribes as one Israel remained, though prac- 
tically the unity had become disintegrated. The conception 
that all the tribes had one God, Jehovah, who gave them 
unity, and to whom alone allegiance was due, still ruled the 
higher minds ; but jii _practice the scattered population in 
many places fell into the habit of worshipping the gods of 
the natives among whom they had settled, and with whom 


they were coalescing into a single people.- More frequent 
than this defection to the worship of the native gods would 
be the natural syncretism which united Jehovah and such 
gods in one worship, at a common sanctuary, and with a 
ritual assimilated in many ways to the native ritual, or at 
least borrowing much from it. 

In fact, the result of our survey was to show that a new 
Israel was thus arising, larger in bulk, and containing not 
only very mixed elements of population, but necessarily also 
* masses of people devoted to lower religious practices and 
living on a lower plane of morals ; and that in this way the 
higher religious and moral spirit in Israel had presented to 
it the task of penetrating and animating a mass of thought 
very dissimilar to itself. Hence a conflict arose between 
the higher and the lower, which raged more or less through- 
out all the history of Israel. It is in the pages of the 
canonical prophets where we see this conflict in all its mean- 
ing ; and these prophets cannot be at all understood, unless 
we carry with us, to the reading of them, this preliminary 
consideration of the earlier period. 

We come now to the period which succeeded that of the 
Judges, and this is a period of surpassing importance. It, 
too, is a new and creative epoch. If in the preceding age 
processes were going on which enlarged and complicated the 
problems set before the higher religious spirits of Israel for 
solution, this period gave birth to forces which, if not new, 
were new combinations of influences already operative, and 
which became the most important factors in the religious life 
and history of Israel JiisTTas] in some of the higher moun- 
tainous regions of our country, one sees a number of springs 
breaking out within a small area, which pour themselves 
down the precipices into the ravine below, and unite to form 
what becomes ere long an imposing river which broadens 
with every league of its progress, so in this region of history 
we observe springs rising, which speedily unite to form the 


great stream of religious life and thought which flows clown 
the whole history of the people of Israel. Two of the most 
significant of these are the prophetic order and the theocratic 

The fact that Amos couples together the prophets and 
the Nazirites as equally raised up by Jehovah, may be taken 
to indicate a connection both in origin and in action between 
the two classes. The Nazirite vow was one of more perfect 
dedication to Jehovah than was common in ordinary life. 
This dedication, however, was designed to show itself more in 
the sphere of personal than of public life, the Nazirite life 
being in a certain measure ascetic. Still jt is_e_vidftnfr thaJL 
both the Nazirite vow and the rise of .pmphets point to an 
increasing religious fervour, and to a new power which the 
spiritual side of the Jehovah religion was beginning to put 
forth. Samuel was both a Nazirite and a prophet. The 
spirit of Naziritism no doubt sometimes took singular forms, 
as in the case of Samson ; and we might almost think that 
the religious element failed in his history. Yet even in his 
case we may perceive the influence of spiritual conceptions, 
as, for example, how dedication to Jehovah implies, or rather 
creates, a spiritual selj^coiniuand which ought to be able to 
resist and abstain from all that is voluptuous, or tends to 
overmaster men's spirit, or rob it of its freedom and power; 
and, secondly, how this dedication to Jehovah is the source 
of supernatural strength ; and finally, how any breach of the 
dedication, or forgetfulness of it, entails the loss of the gifts, 
although not altogether their extinction, inasmuch as the 
germ of them remains, and they show themselves anew, 
though perhaps only fitfully and in the expiring struggles of 
the Nazirite. In this respect there is a singular analogy 
between the history of Samson and that of Saul. 

When we come to the time of Samuel himself, we find 
this growing zeal for Jehovah's service very marked. There 
is frequent mention of prophets, and they appear to have 


existed in great numbers. Of the childhood of Samuel, indeed, 
we read that " the word of .the Lord was rare in those days ; 
vision was not widely spread " ; l but the class of those called 
prophets was numerous, and it continued to be so down even 
to the destruction of Jerusalem. There is much difference 
of opinion among writers on several points connected with 
these prophets, and much might be said. I will state under 
a few heads what seems in the main capable of verification. 

Those commonly called !. prophets' in this age formed 
communities, they were coenobites. Probably the name 
Naioth 2 in Eamah, meaning ' dwellings/ describes such a 
colony or settlement of prophets. A number of places are 
mentioned as the residences of these prophets, e.g, Eamah, 3 in 
Mount Ephraim, where Samuel himself dwelt ; BeJihel, in the 
same neighbourhood ; 4 Gibeajj, in Benjamin ; 5 Jericho, on the 
Jordan ; 6 and GilgaL, likewise near the Jordan. 7 Now it is 
known that at all these centres there was a high place, i.e. 
a local sanctuary, where Jehovah was worshipped. It may 
therefore be fairly surmised that it was around these houses 
of Jehovah that the prophets of this time settled. 

It is probable that, as the prophets dwelt near the 
sanctuaries, they would be in close connection with the 
priests. From the history of Saul we learn that they prac- 
tised music. Samuel says to Saul, when he dismissed him to 
his home after announcing his elevation to the throne in 
Israel, " It shall come to pass that thou shalt meet a company 
of prophets coming down from the high place with a psaltery, 
and a tabretj and a pij)e, and a harp before them ; and they 
shall be prophesying. And the spirit of Jehovah will come 
upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them." 8 The term 
'prophesy' here undoubtedly describes the demeanour of 
these prophets as they proceeded, and the exercises in which 

1 1 Sam. 3 1 . 2 1 sW 19^--- =? 20 1 . 3 1 Sam. 19 W . 

4 2 Kings 2 3 . 5 1 Sam. 10 5 - 10 . 6 2 Kings 2 5 . 

7 2Kings4 ss . 3 1 Sam. 10 5 . 


they were engaged. These probably consisted of singing, or 
other expressions of religious thoughts, accompanied with 
much fervour or even excitation of manner. The excitation 
was infectious, though this appears less from this passage 
than from another, 1 where it is stated that Saul, when he 
went to Naioth to take David, was seized by the prophetic 
spirit, and he stripped off his clothes and prophesied before 
Samuel, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. 
These facts perhaps justify the conclusion that there was not 
yet that sharp distinction between the prophets and the 
priests that arose later, and that as yet the prophets attached 
themselves somewhat closely to the various sanctuaries 
throughout the country, because at these the living worship 
and knowledge of Jehovah was to be found. Indeed, the 
connection of the prophetic body with the priests was always 
close. It is not improbable that Joel was a priest, but at all 
events the two great prophets, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, came 
out of priestly families. And those prophets whom Jeremiah 
denounces as false are in close connection with the temple 
and the priests. Pashhur, who put Jeremiah in the stocks, 
was both a priest and a prophet ; 2 and it was ' the priests 
and the prophets ' who had Jeremiah arrested and arraigned 
before the princes because he prophesied the destruction of 
the temple. 3 

The^multiplication of prophets jitthe epoch of Samuel 
indicates a rising spirit of devotion to Jehovah and en- 
thusiasm in His serviced/and naturally those enthusiasts are 
found clustering round the sanctuaries where He was wor- 
shipped. The question rises, To what was this greater fervour 
and religious elevation due ? Many have explained it as due 
to the circumstances of the people at the time. The people 
were suffering from an oppression far more severe than any 
that had yet overtaken them. They were completely en- 
slaved by the Philistines. And it is argued that this oppres- 

1 1 Sam. 19- 3 - - 4 . 2 Jer. 20. 3 Jer. ^G. 


sion called forth a new national spirit. Of course in Israel 
national and religious were identical terms. The idea of later 
prophets, that national autonomy might be lost, while the re- 
ligion of Jehovah remained, had not yet been reached. It 
,was Jehovah that redeemed Israel and made it a nation ; and 
ational sentiment could not but take the form of a fervid 
return and adherence to Jehovah. Israel's enemies were the 
enemies of Jehovah ; and only by the help of Jehovah, their 
God, could Israel throw off the yoke of the oppressor. It is 
very probable that there is some truth in this idea, though it 
must be confessed that the prophetic communities are never 
brought into any connection with the enemies of Israel or 
with national efforts to deliver the country. 

Others have supposed that the new uprising of religious 
zeal was due to the influence of Samuel, and that the origin of 
the prophetic communities must be attributed to him. There 
is no evidence, however, that Samuel originated the prophetic 
communities. The history of Samuel himself is told us in a 
fragmentary way. We find him first dedicated by his 
mother to the Lord and placed under the priests at Shiloh ; 
and there Jehovah began to speak to him, as He did to 
the canonical prophets, directly. Afterwards we find him at 
Eamah, enjoying the reputation of being, as it was then 
called, a seer, which the writer tells us was what in later 
times was usually named a prophet ; but we do not know the 
circumstances that led to his departure from Shiloh. 1 Though 
Samuel sacrificed just as Elijah did, he does not appear ever 
to have been strictly a priest. The prophetic role which he 
was so early called to play, appears to have been that 
accepted by him, and to have led to his abandoning Shiloh, 
and, in virtue of his rank as a seer, taking the place of judge 
in Israel. All that we have history for is that Samuel was 

1 We learn from Jeremiah that the house of the Lord at Shiloh was at some 
time or other utterly destroyed, and it is possible that the destruction occurred 
at this period at the hands of the Philistines, 


iii close relation with the prophetic communities, for we see 
him at their head l on the occasion referred to when Saul 
sent to take David. But he did not ordinarily reside among 
them, for it is said of David that when he escaped to him 
at Kamah, he and Samuel went and dwelt at Naioth, the 
residence of the prophets. 2 

Samuel's relation to the prophetic schools is precisely the 
same as that of Elijah and Elisha to them at a later date. 
It is manifest that the school at Naioth looked up to him as 
a higher authority and took directions from Mm, and that he 
occasionally took part in their prophetic exercises.; but it is 
equally evident that his gift or function as a seer was of a 
different character from theirs, precisely as the function of 
Elijah differed from that of the prophetic schools of his day. 
It is therefore probable that both the prophetic gift of 
Samuel, and the new enthusiasm of those called prophets, 
were alike symptoms of a new impulse, but that the one was 
hardly the cause of the other. It is probable, no doubt, that 
there were in the circumstances of the people at the time 
causes which, if we knew them, might help to explain the 
rising tide of religious enthusiasm. Jehovah works through 
second causes, but the Scripture historian usually omits the 
and all the information which he gives us is that Jehovah 
spake to Samuel in Shiloh ; and afterwards we hear of him 
under the name of ' the seer/ The facts given us in the 
history of Samuel hardly suffice to account to us for the 
renown which he acquired in the mind of his people and the 
later references made to him. The historian has given us a 
beautiful history of his birth and childhood, 3 but he suddenly 
breaks off, and when we meet the prophet again he is already 
an old man, and his history is merely that of one who partici- 
pates in the events connected with Saul and David. -These 
things make it extremely probable that Samuel had a history 
\\liich, if we knew it, would explain the great reputation 
1 1 Sam. 19. I Sam. 19' 8 . s 1 Sam. 1-3. 


which later literature shows he had. Jeremiah couples him 
with Moses; and possibly there belongsJtoJiiiiuaa-hQGour 
nothing short of being the second founder of the religion of 

Now there are just two or three other steps in the 
history of the prophets to which reference may here be made. 
In the ages following Samuel the prophets are much spoken 
of. The impression which the history leaves on us is that 
Samuel, though called a ' seer,' was entirely what in the times 
of the canonical prophets was called a ' prophet,' and this is 
the impression of the writer, who says : " Beforetime in\ 
Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, thus he spake, 
Come and let us go to the seer ; for he that is now called a 
prophet was beforetime called a seer." 1 The point of im- 
portance is this, that men went to inquire of God at 

though called a seer._ Now there is no doubt that this was 

- _ ____ ____ - --- ' A 

extraordinary in Samuel's day. Formerly, and even later,; 

the priest was in possession of the oracle of Jehovah ; and it 
was through, this priestly oracle, the Urim and Tumniirn, that 
Goi gave responses to those who inquired of Him. In the 
early history of David we observe him frequently inquiring of 
God through the priests. And we see the same in the case 
of Gideon, who set up an oracle an Ephod in his house. 
This appears to have been the legitimate channel through 
which the decisions of Jehovah came to men. No doubt 
these decisions were in many instances judicial, decisions on 
difficult cases between man and man ; but in David's case 
they were of the nature of oracles as to conduct. Even 
_before^Samuel, as in the case of Deborah, the divine counsel 
might be given^through^ a^person ; but from Samuel onward 
this_apears to have become almost_Ifigular. This was al 
great stride, so to speak, and an epoch in the history of 
propneey^^Th^prTestly r oracle~was a s^ecleTTrHnt^^not quite 
understood by us._ Now Jehovah began to speak directly 

1 1 Sam. 9 9 . 


and exclusively to the minds of men. He revealed His secret 

counsel to His servants the prophets. The consistency and 

Vexclusiveness of this mode of revelation was the foundation 

I of the prophetic order, which, as we usually speak of it, we 

I* may therefore date from Samuel. 

Another step of importance followed. In the time of 
the early monarchy we read of a number of men who are 
called prophets ; but special designations are given to some 
of them, suggestive of a particular relation which they bore 
to the kings, e.g. 2 Sam. 24 11 , the 'prophet' Gad is called 
David's 'seer.' In 1 Chron. 25 5 the sons of Heman, the 
king's seer, are mentioned. From this we infer that those 
prophets, who have both names, prophet and seer, stood in a 
close relation to the king, being, as what we call prophets, 
his counsellors, and addressing him in the name of God. 
These prophets, therefore, indirectly influenced the govern- 
ment as a whole, and acted upon the affairs of the kingdom 
of God, although through the king. So long as the kings 
and prophets were in accord, this may have worked well. 
But when wicked or uutheocratic - minded kings arose, 
naturally the king and the prophets, at least those who were 
the true prophets of Jehovah ,_took^djffe.renl-sides. It might 
have been well for the peaceable development of the theo- 
cracy if the prophets and the rulers had always been in 
accord ; and we might think it a calamity when a dissidence 
arose between them. But undoubtedly though the disagree- 
ment was occasionally fruitful of trouble and revolution, it 
was an event which we may call fortunate in the history_of 
prophecy. It achieved the complete independence of the 
prophetic order. The prophets took their place as the im- 
mediate servants of Jehovah over-against all other classes. 
The religious and moral development of the nation fell ex- 
clusively into their hands. The priests sank into mere 
officiating functionaries in the sanctuaries, whose chief care 
was to attend to ritual, although they still had in their 


hands, for a time at least, judicial power in all ordinary 
matters, civil as well as religious. 

Finally, another step was taken. Samuel and the great 
prophets Elijah and Elisha jnt.prfp.rftd, rlirpp.f-.1y in 

ment of the State \_ the former because in his day there was 
no king, and the latter because the kingship had become 
corrupt, and threatened, as in the case of Ahab, to destroy 
the fundamental principles of the constitution. But from 
Elisha downwards the_jgrophets withdr_aw x in the main 1 _from 

party strife. They no longer head revolutions. It began to 
appear to them that the State, as such, was hopelessly corrupt 
and must be destroyed ; and so their interest in one king as 
against another ceases. They fall back entirely on moral 
means. They address the people as a whole. Such men as 
Isaiah and Jeremiah still give counsel to kings, but they 
never head political movements, or ally themselves with 
parties. From Amos downwards the prophets employ 
exclusively speech and writing. 



IN the time of the Judges there are to be observed two 
or three political tendencies beginning to show themselves, 
which in later times became more prominent, and indeed 
ruled the political conditions of the nation to the end. One 
of these was the claim of the tribe of Ephraim, which 
occupied the centre of gravity of the country, to a Hegemony, 
or at least to a preponderating influence at any rate among 
the Northern tribes. This powerful clan acted on the 
surrounding tribes with the attraction of a large mass for 
smaller bodies, and became the centre around which the 

'other tribes clustered or revolved. Secondly, this union of 
the Northern tribes on both sides of the Jordan was counter- 
balanced in the South by the powerful tribe of Judah ; and 

i this early fracture widened ultimately into the great schism 
between the North and the South. 

(A third thing noticeable is an occasional attempt to 
introduce the kingly form of government. No doubt the 
need of a more permanent authority than that supplied by 
the individual judges was widely felt. The judges were 
dictators of a kind, but their appearance was only occasional. 
They were raised up to meet a special emergency. It is 
probable that during their lifetime they occupied a place 
of authority and respect, having saved Israel during war, 
they continued to judge, that is, administer justice during 
the time of peace. Yet when they died the nation was 
again without a head and without visible unity. Jehovah 



was the King, but His rule was invisible and ideal. It 
might be real enough, and felt by the better minds in the 
State, but the ruder masses felt the need of something that 
appealed to their senses. There seems to have been, how- 
ever, among the higher minds a feeling that a human king 
would compete with the kingship of Jehovah. Gideon, when 
pressed to assume royal authority, declined ; and the same 
feeling was afterwards manifested by Samuel, though 
probably the urgent needs of his time helped to overcome 
his scruples. A kingdom was set up for awhile by 
Abimelech, the son of Gideon, though its duration was 
probably but for a few years, and its extent, perhaps, not 
greatly larger than the city of Shechem and its territories. 
It is to be supposed that the absorption into the individual 
tribes of the masses of the aboriginal inhabitants may have 
somewhat tended to efface the great tribal distinctions, and 
to have prepared the w y ay for a monarchy over all the tribes 
without distinction. 

The rise of the kingdom in Israel, and the causes and 
manner of the election of the first king, are involved in some 
obscurity. As has been pointed out, the need of some 
visible head to represent the people, of a leader under whose 
banner they might rally in times of danger, had been often 
felt. During the lifetime of each judge the unity of the 
people was in some measure attained and conserved. But 
whenever he died the former state of disintegration super- 
vened, since, as the historian occasionally remarks, " there 
was no king in Israel, and every man did that which was right 
in his own eyes." As long as the conflicts which the tribes 
had to wage were not more formidable than quarrels between 
them and the native populations or marauding bands from 
the desert beyond Jordan, such a condition, though dangerous, 
might not be intolerable ; but when an organised power, like 
the Philistine confederacy, initiated what was a war of 
conquest against the Northern tribes, the need of a king 



to lead the armies of Israel and resist the aggressor was 
universally felt. And in point of fact it was in connection 
with the Philistine waia_JJiaLJiha.JdjigsJiip originate^. In 
1 Sam. 4-6 is narrated the disastrous defeat of Israel at 
Ebenezer by the Philistines, which resulted in the death of 
Eli's two sons, the capture of the ark, and the subjugation of 
Northern Israel. Immediately on this follows, in chaps. 813, 
the history of Saul's election to the throne, and his great 
exploit in defeating the Ammonites, who were besieging 
Jabesh Gilead, which in the eyes of the nation justified the 
choice that had fallen on him. 1 

It seems almost certain that 1 Samuel contains two 
narratives of the election of Saul, written from somewhat 
different points of view, but now amalgamated together. The 
first of these narratives is contained in chap. 8, 10 17 ~ 27 , and 
chap. 12. Chap. 11, though now embodied in this narrative, 
probably belonged originally to another. The second narrat- 
ive is contained in 9 1 " 10 - 1G , chaps. 13, 14, and it is probable 
that chap. 11 originally formed part of it. It does not 
appear to me that these narratives contradict one another, 
though unquestionably they give prominence to different 
aspects of the transaction. The former enters more into the 
state of the people's mind in asking a king of Samuel, and 
represents Samuel as at first opposed to the request. The 
people are represented as seeking a king, that they might be 
as the nations about them. And to the prophet the request 
seems a renunciation of the kingship over them of Jehovah, 
as indeed the voice of heaven says to him : " They have 
not rejected thee, but they have rejected Me." 

The second narrative is without this deeper religious 
insight, and moves more among external facts. It is 
prefaced by the story of Saul seeking the lost asses, an 
adventure which brings him before Samuel. By a preceding 
inspiration, the prophet is warned that this is the man whom 

1 1 Sam. 11. 


the Lord has chosen to be ruler of His people ; he anoints the 
young hero, and sends him away, foretelling some remarkable 
religious experiences which would befall him, when the Spirit 
of God would come on him, and he would be changed into 
another man. The higher spirit animated Saul ; and a month 
later, when the people of Jabesh Gilead sent messengers 
imploring help against the Ammonites, Saul hews his oxen 
in pieces, and sends the bloody fragments throughout Israel, 
like one of the old judges, commanding the people to follow 
him. His brilliant victory over the Ammonites secured him 
universal recognition, and he is crowned king amidst the 
acclamations of the people. 

Now there does not seem any great divergence here. 
That very mixed motives should animate the people in 
seeking a king, is natural enough ; and the request did reveal 
a want of faith in the protection of their God. And that 
minds like Samuel's should cling to the ancient regime, and 
be loath to see the ideal sovereignty of Jehovah, which should 
have been powerful enough to secure the unity of the tribes, 
brought down and embodied in an earthly monarchy, is not 
wonderful. In periods of transition the old ideal becomes 
encircled with a halo of glory, and it is not without regret 
that it is given up, even when new necessities have arisen 
that imperatively demand a change. Both narratives concur 
in tracing the new movement to Samuel ultimately. The 
kingdom has the sanction of prophecy and the prophet of 
Jehovah, and through him of Jehovah Himself. In the one 
narrative Jehovah selects Saul, and anoints him king (so Sept.) 
through His prophet Samuel ; in the other, Jehovah intimates 
His will through the sacred lot. In other words, in the one\ 
narrative the sovereignty is the creation of the prophetic 
inspiration ; in the other, of the priestly inspiration or 
guidance by Jehovah. 

It does not belong to our subject to trace the history of 
Saul or other individual rulers. Old Testament prophecy 


does not deal with the history as history, but with it only 
as it has religious significance, arid reveals the progress of 
thought in Israel. The history of Saul is familiar in its great 
turning-points, which are mainly three : the heroic struggle 
of the king and his chivalrous son Jonathan against the 
Philistines ; the campaign against Amalek, which had as its 
issue the rejection of Saul from the throne ; and the last 
tragic events of his life, his desertion by Jehovah, his 
consulting the witch of Endor, and the disastrous defeat of 

O * 

Israel by the Philistines at Gilboa, in which he and his sons 
fell. The question which has to be put is, What is the 
significance, in the religion of Israel, of the theocratic 
kingdom ? It is evident that Saul did not realise the 
ideal of that kingdom ; for, because he did not, he was 
rejected from it. It is not till the reign of his successor 
that characteristics appear, and events are transacted, that 
suggest to us what the ideal of a king for Jehovah, and a 
kingdom of the Lord upon earth is. These characteristics 
and events enter into the religious imagination of the people, 
and become powerful impulses for the present, and brilliant 
ideal anticipations for the future. 

Yet there are incidents in the life of Saul, and a tragic 
element running through it, which induce us to linger over 
the page of history on which it is written. The question, What 
was the cause of Saul's failure ? what was the feature wanting 
in him which caused his rejection ? or what was the cause 
of the rupture between him and the prophet, which made 
the latter, with lifelong grief, withdraw from him, is difficult 
to answer. 1 So far as an answer is furnished, it is given in 
chap. 15, which narrates the campaign against Amalek. The 
king disobeyed some particulars of the commands Jehovah 
laid on him, and for this reason he was rejected. The reasons 
seem to us insufficient. And doubtless there were more 

1 Cf. ' The Eeprobation of Saul ' in Dr. Davidson's volume of Sermons 
entitled The Called of God. 


reasons, though they may have been of a similar kind. It 
was not one act of Saul's, but a prevailing disposition or 
type of rnind, that caused his rejection. Cardinal New- 
man, in a sermon on the subject, concludes that self-will 
was the sin of Saul. But self-will is only another side of 
insufficient sensibility to the will of another. And this is 
the view of the narrative. The new kingship was the 
representative of Jehovah's rule ; and, to be so, it must be 
modelled in all things after His will. This will was ex- 
pressed through prophecy, the living source of revelation. 
And it was just in the case of the first king that the 
subordination of his will to that of the true King had to be 
insisted on. But the king was rather one that corresponded 
with the secular wishes of the people in demanding a king, 
than one after Jehovah's own heart. In truth, Saul's election 
and reprobation only illustrate the general truth, seen in 
the case of Abraham's children and Isaac's, that God's first 
experiment is one on the field of nature, and that, when the 
failure of this is palpable, He substitutes for it one on the 
field of grace. 

If, then, we seek to estimate the kingship in its religious 
meaning, the reign of David furnishes the most important 
point of departure. For there was the personality of 
David, he was a man after God's heart. This does not^ 
refer to his moral life, which was far from immaculate, but 
rather, as we might say, to his religious life. His public/ 
religious acts and his submission to the revelation of Jehovah 
explain the expression. 

By a seTiesof successful wars, David not only defeated 
the Philistines, who had for a long time been almost 
suzerains of Israel, but extended his conquests on the 
other side of Jordan, from the south end of the Dead Sea 
as far north as Damascus. Edom, Moab, Ammon, and 
the Syrian States came successively under his sway. The 
country between the Jordan and the Euphrates virtually 


belonged to him. Israel was a powerful State, almost what 
in those days might have been called an empire. The youth 
who had risen from the sheep-cotes to the throne of Israel 
was the most brilliant conqueror of his time ; and the 
memory of his deeds and of the renown he won for his people 
was never effaced. Bather, as men looked back to it in 
after ages, when the kingdom had long been divided, and 
great reverses had fallen on both halves of it, and it was 
tottering to its fall both in the North and the South, the 
halo of light that encircled the Davidic age became brighter. 

As usually happens, the dark spots in the king's reign 
and life were not noticed amidst the blaze of splendour that 
hung over the whole, the bloodshed, the family intrigues 
and assassinations, and the personal failings of the monarch 
himself : what was seen was the extent of his rule, the 
national unity which he consolidated, the peace which he 
secured, and his zeal for Jehovah, God of Israel. And we 
must allow that this judgment was just. For though the 
king had failings, just as in a face some one feature that 
is defective is lost sight of in the harmony and beauty of all 
the features, so in his character that which was evil was not 
noticed in the general greatness and nobility of the whole. 

David was a man of strong impulses not always con- 
trolled, but also of a most tender sensibility ; and if his 
passions led him into great sins, the depth of his nature was 
shown in the agony of his compunction. His love for 
Jonathan, his paroxysms of sorrow over his little child and 
his son Absalom, reveal the emotional and impulsive type of 
his nature. His predecessor Saul was stately, proud, and 
kingly in person and mind, but reserved, and without the 
spell of sympathy which attaches men and inspires them 
with a personal affection, his relative Abner and his devoted 
son Jonathan being almost the only friends of his mentioned ; 
but David's nature flowed out and mixed itself with the 
minds of men around him, and they loved him with an 


affection which, as he said himself, passed the love of women. 
The roll of his heroes, and the hazardous exploits they were 
ready to do for him on all occasions, amply attest his 
irresistible influence over them. His history and his char- 
acter fitted him to be a nation's hero, and the historian 
remarks, when narrating his generous indignation at the 
murder of Abner, and how he followed his bier to the 
grave, though policy might have congratulated itself on the 
great supporter of the house of Saul being removed out of 
the way, that whatsoever th^Jjii^didpleased the people. 

Several things suggest that the true theocratic party in 
Israel had, at a very early period of Saul's reign, transferred 
its hopes from that king and bestowed them on David. The 
priests at Nob favoured the latter, and brought on themselves 
the exterminating vengeance of Saul. Not only priests but 
prophets are mentioned as accompanying David in his flight and 

bymen__like Gadjpid Nathan, attached themselves to his 
court. Now sacred history places everything under a super- 
natural light, and informs us that Samuel, at God's command, 
anointed David to be king. The historian's object is to show 
how God guided the history, not to tell how men's minds 
moved or co-operated. We have therefore always to read 
between the lines in such narratives, and fancy to ourselves 
motives influencing men, and movements among them operat- 
ing for a considerable time, and culminating at last in such 
an act as that of Samuel. 

David justified the hopes of the theocratic party in Israel. 
His first care, when he established his throne at Jerusalem, 
was for the ark of Jehovah. After the battle of Aphek, the 
ark, having fallen into the hands of the Philistines, was sent 
back by them, and remained for a long time in the care of 
private persons, no religious services being connected with 
it, or public recognition awarded it. This is very singular. 
No doubt the unsettled condition of the country under the 


Philistines partly explains it. But the priests who, after the 
destruction of Shiloh by the Philistines, settled at Nob 
appear to have made no efforts to reclaim the ark, or offer 
a shelter to it. It is not impossible, indeed, that the Mosaic 
conceptions and traditions, which were most closely con- 
nected with the ark, had become somewhat obscured in the 
minds of these priests. This ark David brought back with 
much ceremony to Jerusalem, and henceforth a worship of 
Jehovah was established in the centre of the kingdom, which 
was at least pure and free from all mediation by images. 
A later Psalmist (Ps. 132) celebrates this piety of David: 

" Jehovah, remember for David 
All his affliction ; 
How he sware unto Jehovah, 
And vowed unto the Mighty One of Jacob : 
Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house, 
Nor go up into my bed ; 
I will not give sleep to mine eyes, 
Nor slumber to mine eyelids, 
Until I find out a place for Jehovah, 
A tabernacle for the Mighty One of Jacob." 

After he had brought the ark of Jehovah to Jerusalem, 
David determined to build a house for the Lord. This 
purpose he communicated to the prophet Nathan, who at 
first approved of it, but afterwards induced the king to 
abandon his design, and leave the execution of it to his 
son. The devout purpose of the king, however, was the 
occasion of a remarkable promise being given him from God 
through the prophet : " Jehovah telleth thee that He will 
make thee an house. When thy days be fulfilled, and thou 
shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, 
and I will establish his kingdom. I will be his father, and 
he shall be My son. He shall build an house for My name, 
and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever." The 


point of this promise is, that Jehovah will build David an 
house, that is, He will establish his dynasty on the throne 
of Israel. The passage, in its present form, may, as some 
writers think, be later and amplified ; but, to put it on no 
higher ground, such a promise was, in the circumstances, 
the most natural thing in the world. And to assume that 
everything of the nature of promise or anticipation is nothing 
else than a later fact antedated, is to ' pitch the pipe too 
low,' and to forget the prophetic gift of all religion, or at 
any rate what was just the characteristic of the religion of 
Israel, its outlook into the future. In all the religious 
history of mankind there is nothing that can be compared 
to the prophetic order in Israel. What cannot be denied 
to Isaiah must be conceded to Nathan, unless there be good 
reasons to the contrary. 

David's religious care culminated in the Temple of 
Solomon. There is nothing unlikely in the tradition that 
David made many preparations for the temple, though it 
was left to his son to rear it. It was built, no doubt, on 
Phoenician models ; but that the Phoenician idea, that of a 
temple to the sun, did not dominate it, may be inferred from 
the fact that the Adytum, or most holy place, was towards 
the west. The influence of such a house as this on the 
worship was naturally great. It was splendid for these 
times, and therefore attractive. The worship within it was 
to a God whom no image represented. The religious centre 
of the nation and its political centre were one ; religion and 
patriotism united in one fervent stream. Of course Jeru- 
salem was not the only sanctuary. The high places or rural 
sanctuaries continued. There was no law imposing a unity 
of sanctuary or place of sacrifice ; it was left to circum- 
stances, and events, and the natural gravitation of worship 
towards the central temple, to bring this about. 

But David's character and religious zeal brought the 
kingship into very close relation with Jehovah, God of the 


people. The king was His representative : " I have set My 
king on My holy hill of Ziou." l This closeness of fellowship 
was, on the one side, sonship ; and, on the other, fatherhood. 
And, by contrast with the history of Saul, the idea of a 
hereditary royal house arose, a house established by Jehovah 
for ever. Probably the consequences of David's action in 
thus making Jerusalem both the civil and the religious centre 
of Israel's national life were not clearly foreseen by him ; and 
it is difficult to guess what purposes and aspirations filled 
his mind at this time, though we are much more likely to 
err, if we suppose them petty or narrow, than if we imagine 
them wide. Ewald, whose judgments on Scripture, whether 
we acquiesce in them or not, are always dignified and worthy, 
regards Ps. 101 as belonging to this time, and as con- 
taining a programme of the royal Psalmist's rule : 

" I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way : 

when wilt Thou come unto me ? 

1 will walk within my house with a perfect heart. 
A froward heart shall depart from me : 

I will not know a wicked person. 

Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, 

That they may dwell with me : 

He that walketh in a perfect way 

He shall minister unto me." 2 

The kingship in Israel, however, derived its significance 
from the previous idea that Jehovah was the true King 
of the people. The monarch was Jehovah's representative, 
sitting on His throne at His right hand. He was His son 
and fellow. This conception naturally suggested lofty ideas 
of the king. But in point of fact it is not the bare idea of 
the kingship that we find in the. prophetic literature of 
Israel ; it is always the Da~viclic kingship. It was the 
character and career of David that gave a complexion to the 

J Ps. 2 6 . 2 Ps. 101 2 - 4 -V 



idea of the kingship, which became part of its essence ; and 
when, in times of disaster and decay, men looked back to 
David's reign, they transfigured it in the light of their 
religious hopes and aspirations. It thus became the type of 
the ideal universal kingdom of God which should_y_eji arise 
upon the earth. 

David had welded the tribes into a uniy, one people 
of the Lord. He, and particularly his son, broke down the 
ancient tribal constitution and barriers. This idea, that the 
people of Jehovah are one, we find often in later literature, 
the unity is the correlative of the kingship, and even more of 
the one God. To Amos the disruption of the kingdom was 
a falling down of the tabernacle of David, and he pro- 
phesies its building up again and the restoration of its 
breaches. And to Hosea the schism of the North was a 
rupture in the one consciousness of the community, the 
spouse of the Lord, irreconcilable with the one consciousness 
of her G6d7~ 

Once more, the peace which David at last brought about 
on every side suggested an ideal for all after times ; and 
thus the idea of a peaceful king enters as a feature into all 
prophecies of the future. 

And, finally, the extent of David's rule, which embraced 
all the smaller nations immediately touching on Israel, 
suggested the idea of a universal sway of the king of the 
kingdom of the Lord, and tEe^Submission of all nations 
to him. 

Now we should no doubt be wrong in imagining that iu 

o o o 

David's own day these things were reflected on, as they 
were afterwards ; or that the same religious view was taken 
of them, or the same ideals suggested by them. These were 
there, however, as germs which came to bear fruit. Suc- 
ceeding literature, both Prophets and Psalms, are full of 
them, showing how religious minds were enlightened to 
perceive their meaning. 



IT is helpful to the understanding of Old Testament prophecy 
to find breaks in its long history. The religious develop- 
ment of Israel is mainly a development in the idea of 
God. As God was the only force in the world, particularly 
in human history, when a crisis occurred in history, some 
conception of God had to be called in to explain it ; and 
when mysterious problems arose either in national or indi- 
vidual life, the problem was immediately reflected back upon 
God, and became one regarding His nature or action. In 
Israel religious progress assumed the form of a conflict. The 
traditional idea is that this people was perpetually falling 
into the worship of other gods than Jehovah, and was per- 
petually being reconverted to Jehovah-worship, only to 
apostatise again after a few years, and be again converted. 
Such alternations and fluctuations are really not after the 
manner in which the human mind operates. It would be 
like a tendency, say, of some German Protestant State to fall 
back into the religion of Borne, out of which to be again 
converted to Protestantism, and from that, after a few years, to 
fall away again, only to be once more, within an equally short 
time, reconverted to Protestantism. This cannot have been 
the character of the religious conflict which Israel's prophets 
had to wage. If a conflict implies lower elements and concep- 
tions, it also implies a higher element which was conscious 
of the lower, and was striving to eject or transform them. 
Such a transmuting force existed in Israel from the be- 



ginning, producing the results which mankind now inherit. 
This force may be identified with the moral element in the 
conception of Jehovah. Of course mere progress in itself 
does not decide that the progress was natural or super- 
natural. Our convictions in regard to this question must be 
formed rather from our examination of the results eventually 
achieved, from contrasting these results with those attained 
by any other people, and from the trust we place in the 
consciousness of the prophets, the leaders of Israel, who felt 
and affirmed that they were inspired of God. 

It is with prophecy as a force, as a power in advancing 
the religion of Israel, that we are at present interested. 
Prophecy was the religion of Israelexpressing itself , j>e- 
cniiiiuu; aggressive and fertile. The true religion of Israel ^ 
had before it two tasks, to overcome its antagonists, the false 
deities or Baals, and then to develop and purify itself. The 
first task was accomplished bv Elijah and the revolution of 
Jetmj the second by the long line of canonical prophets. 

The Canaanites, as we have seen, became Israelites; but, 
in becoming Israelites, they could not help carrying over into 
the life and thought of Israel much of their own debased 
religion and morals. It is proof of the vigour of the 
Jehovah-worship that it did not succumb before the worship 
of the native Baals. Still it could not but be that a religion 
of Jehovah would arise which was debased by many Canaan- 
itish elements, just as the heathen nations of Europe, when 
they accepted Christianity, all took the name of Christians, 
but nevertheless carried over into their new faith many of 
their old superstitions, and practised them, for a time at 
least, along with their new faith. 

From the time of David and Solomon downwards, the 

/distinction of Canaanite and Israelite was obliterated, and all 

I went by the latter name ; but it will always remain uncer- 

Ltain how much of the superstitions which appear occasionally 

in the history of Israel, and are denounced by the prophets, 




such as invocation of the dead, was really due to the 
Canaanites and the descendants of the mixed race that arose 
by intermarriage with Israelites. It would be interesting 
if we could ascertain the pre-Mosaic religion of Israel, the 
religious ideas and practices of the tribes, before Moses 
induced them to accept the religion of Jehovah ; and many 
scholars, in seeking to determine the ideas and practices of 
pre-Mosaic Israel, consider themselves entitled to assume 
that all the superstitions and rites found to exist in Israel, 
but denounced by prophets and legislators, were pre-Mosaic 
practices of Israel itself. But obviously this is a precarious 
assumption, as the practices may be purely Canaanitish.' It is 
certain, for instance, that religious prostitution, which is de- 
nounced by both Amos and Hosea, was a Canaanite practice, 
and was first met with by Israel on entering Canaan. 

With Israel, Jehovah took possession not only of the 

land and the cities and the civilisation, but also of the 

sanctuaries of Canaan. He was worshipped at the altars 

where the Baals had been worshipped before ; and it was 

not unnatural that, though He bore another name, He 

should be thought, by the native population, not unlike the 

gods of whose altars He had taken possession. Two 

religions of Jehovah thus arose, and existed side by side, 

a higher and a lower : the purer religion of Mosaic Israel, 

and the debased religion arising through amalgamation 

with the native populations. In the latter there was an 

^assimilation of the worship of Jehovah to the native worship, 

and consequently an obscuration of the loftier ethical 

conception of the God of Israel, who sank down nearly 

to the level of a nature god, whose office, as Hosea says. 

was to give the people " their bread and water, their wool 

and flax, their oil and their drink." l The conception 

which masses of the people had of Jehovah was one 

which He could not recognise as the conception of Himself. 

1 Hos. 2 5 . 


Hence He says : " Seak Me, and seek not unto Betnel." ] 
Ostensibly and in name, the people^ worshipped Jehovah ; but 
the conception they had of Him, and the service they rendered 
Him, were proper rather to a Baal or a local nature god. 

Nevertheless the ancient Mosaic conception of the God of 
Israel and knowledge of Him still lived. It animated the 
prophets and no doubt many in all ages. The prophet?, in 
seeking to inspire men with a purer idea of God, are all 
conscious that they are no innovators. They stand on the 
old paths. Jehovah, as they conceive Him, is the historical 
God of Israel, their God from the land of Egypt. It is the 
^people who have changed. Hosea is not only of this opinion 
himself, but he goes so far as to affirm that the people are 
conscious of the change : " I will return to my first" husband, 
for it jwasjoetter with me then than now." Thus a conscious 
antagonism arose, and came to prevail between two parties 
in Israel, manifesting itself at least from the days of Elijah 
downwards. It is an antagonism between two conceptions of 
Jehovah and two ways of serving Him. , 

This antagonism came to a head in the time of Elijah, 
and the revolution of Jehu put its seal t 

it gave national expression to Elijah's demand : " If Jehovah 
be God, follow Him ; but if Baal, then follow him." 2 The 
numerical oneness of God was now recognised, at least for 
Israel. This was the result of the conflict. We should like 
greatly to know how far back these two parties were in con- 
flict ; to know something more of the history, the rise and 
growth of both parties in the great struggle that came to so 
dramatic an end, and was decided as it was in this age. But 
we have little information ; we must in the main exercise our 
imagination. But that the conflict goes far back, we know 
for certain. On the one side we are informed that Saul 
" put away those that had familiar spirits and the wizards 
out of the land." 3 Invocation of the dead and similar 

1 Amos 5 5 . 2 1 Kings IS 21 . >J 1 Sam. 28 s . 



practices existed in Israel ; but even in this early period 
they were felt to be in conflict with the religion of Jehovah. 
That such practices had a strong hold on the life and the 
imagination of the people, may be inferred from the fact that 
Saul himself, in his great perplexity and abandonment, when 
Jehovah answered him neither by dreams nor prophets, nor 
by the oracle of the Urini and Tummirn, had recourse to 
a woman with a familiar spirit (2is npjp n ^). 1 

On the other side, we know that Jeroboam introduced the 
golden bulls as symbols of Jehovah, or of some at least of 
His attributes, e.g. His strength, placing one at Bethel, the 
southern extremity of his kingdom, and the other in Dan, the 
northern extremity. This was a declension from the image- 
less or unsymbolical worship of Jehovah, which certainly 
prevailed at Shiloh and later in Jerusalem. The origin of the 
worship of calves, or rather, young bulls, is obscure. There 
is no probability that it was derived from Egypt, for the 
Apis worshipped there was a live bull; and it is scarcely 
conceivable that Aaron would have said regarding an Egyptian 
god, " These be thy gods (or, this is thy God), Israel, which 
brought thee out of the land of Egypt." 2 It is more probable 
that the symbol was a common Semitic one, known and used 
at least among some of the elements of pre-Mosaic Israel. 
No doubt they would become familiar with it again in 
Canaan, and this would lead to its adoption by Jeroboam. 

Now it is not quite easy to say what it is that the 

'] canonical prophets stigmatise as Baal worship. It is, I think, 

' the general opinion among scholars that what they call Baal 

\ worship is not worship of Baal or the Baals as another god 

\ than Jehovah, but the debased worship given to Jehovah, 

the kind of conception had of Him, and the kind of 

service rendered Him. The people meant to worship 

Jehovah, and thought they were doing so ; but to the 

prophets their conception and their methods of worship 

1 1 Sam. 28 7 . 2 Ex. 32 8 . 


were mere heathenism. When Jeremiah, even in his 
day, charges the people with Baal worship, they indignantly 
reclaim against his judgment, denying that they worshipped 
Baal ; but he replied, " How canst thou say, I have not gone 
after the Baals ? " But no doubt another view of the 
prophet's language might be taken. Although lofty views of 
Jehovah were set before the people by Moses, and though 
they were forbidden to serve any god but Jehovah, yet we 
do not know on what level the mass of Israel stood at 
the Exodus ; but if they stood on a low level, we do 
know how long pure views of God are in penetrating a 

Whatever views of the oneness of God Moses might have 
had, the views prevalent in all the world at the time were 
far from monotheistic. The idea was that every nation, and 
even every locality, had its own god. When Israel entered 
Canaan, it found local Baals everywhere. They were the 
gods of the land. They were gods of nature, givers of 
fertility, bestowers of all the bounties of nature. With no 
strict monotheistic notions, the people might give their 
homage to these possessors of the localities where they 
settled, and seek from them their gifts. This did not mean 
renunciation of Jehovah, who was the national God. The 
individual might desire some superhuman power with which 
he could come into closer fellowship in his own locality and 
for his own needs. We find David's wife having Teraphim 
household gods, which certainly did not supersede Jehovah, 
but might be appealed to for some domestic help. There 
is no likelihood that David used such gods, but possibly he 
did not interfere with the peculiarities of his female house- 
hold. All this, however, is somewhat uncertain, and the 
Teraphim may have been images of Jehovah Himself. 

Upon the whole, perhaps, the first view is nearest the truth, 
namely, that what the prophets stigmatise as Baal worship is 
the heathenish worship of Jehovah Himself, under a concep- 


tion, and too often with rites, which left Him little higher than 
a Baal or local nature-god. But not improbably both views 
have some truth in them. It is not likely that in the 
prophetic age, one hundred years after the revolution of Jehu, 
which abolished Baal worship, Baal was served in Israel as a 
deity different from Jehovah ; but prior to that revolution 
and to the age of Elijah, the Baals may have been served 
side by side with Jehovah. 1 

It is to be lamented that Hebrew literature leaves us so 
ill-informed as to the internal movements in Israel. David 
was a fervid Jehovist and Israelite, but Solomon, his son, was 
more cosmopolitan. Tradition asserts that he was the founder 
of the Wisdom in Israel. Though holding the general prin- 
ciples of the religion of Israel, the wise men were more 
universalist than particularism They were what we might 
call the humanists of Israel. 

Solomon was certainly not a theoretical or logical rnono- 
theist, for he built chapels for his foreign wives to worship 
their own native gods in. This was the universal practice in 
antiquity, and probably in general was regarded as being 
as natural as for a husband, in our day, to allow his wife to 
worship according to the religion she had been brought up in, 
though his own religion was different. It is possible that 
Solomon's practice offended some ; and it may have helped to 
that alienation of mind from his house which issued in the 
disruption of the kingdom, though the main cause was no 
doubt his centralising the government, obliterating the dis- 
itinction of the tribes, and taking the rule out of the hands of 

1 One of the chief supporters of the view that the Baals were worshipped by 
the people consciously as distinct from Jehovah is Professor Budde ofStrassburg. 
His view is strongly put in some lectures delivered by him in America. Budde, 
however, feels that his view requires him to go further. He is obliged to 
assume (1) that Jehovah had His seat at Sinai ; (2) that He was not supposed 
to enter Canaan with the people the ark was only a substitute for Him ; (3) that 
it was only when Israel had conquered the whole land that Jehovah was 
supposed to take up His abode in it ; (4) that up to that time the people of Israel 
were naturally worshippers of the Baals the gods of the land. 


the tribal elders and putting it into the hands of royal com- 
missioners, and his heavy taxation. 

A hundred years later than Solomon, a similar course 
was pursued by Ahab, but with results more immediately 
disastrous to the throne. Omri had married his son Ahab 
to the Tyrian princess Jezebel, daughter of Ethbaal, king 
of Tyre, formerly the priest of Melkart, the Tyrian Baal. 
When Ahab came to the throne, he built a house of Baal 
for his wife in Samaria, the capital of his kingdom, just as 
Solomon had done. But the times were changed. A new 
spirit was beginning to reveal itself in Israel. There is no 
reason to suppose that Ahab himself meant to abandon the 
worship of Jehovah, neither had he any wish to proselytise, 
much less to persecute. He was no propagandist. It was 
the Jehovah party that initiated the conflict. If we are in 
the dark regarding the processes which had long been going 
on in the direction of a syncretism of Jehovah and the Baals, 
and the assimilation of their worship giving rise to the con- 
fusion in the people's mind regarding them, we are equally in 
the dark regarding the opposite movement of protest against 
it. It was the act of Ahab in introducing the Tyrian Baal 
that brought the movement to a head, raising, if one may say 
so, the whole question of the Baals. But the movement had 
been rising for long, and though Elijah was its spokesman, 
there was behind him a great pressure. The disaffection had 
invaded the army. The people halted or limped between two 
opinions, afraid to give their convictions expression, being 
overawed by the court. It was not only a protest against 
the Baals, it had deeper and wider roots. The Baal worship 
was only an element in the evil. The Eechabites, who appear 
for the first time at this period, in tEeir zeal for Jehovah 
protested against the whole civilisation inherited from the 
Canaanites, against agriculture and especially vine culture. 
They wished to reintroduce the nomadic ideal, when Israel's 
morals were austere, its life simple, and its religion pure. 


The Nazjrites also abstained from wine, the chief symbol of 
the Dionysiac civilisation. 

Elijah did not apparently lay stress on these things. 
His mind was directed to something more fundamental. 
He had the conception whether it was new or no that 
Jehovah was a God beside whom no other god could co- 
exist. The erection of the Baal temple in Samaria brought 
him to give his conviction expression. To him, Baal and 
Jehovah represented two absolutely exclusive principles. Two 
beings entitled to the homage of mankind could not exist. 
For Elijah there could not be powers existing in different 
localities, or countries, equally entitled to the homage of 
men ; there could be but One Holy One and One Mighty, 
who revealed Himself not in the life of nature, but in the^ 
laws of human society, and in the mind of man, in the 
moral demands of the human conscience.. The conflict was 
seen by Elijah to be no more a conflict of nationalities 
of Israel and Jehovah against another nation and its 
gods. The God of Israel was not subsumed in Israel's 
nationality. That God had contents of His own. He took 
His place over-against Israel, as formerly He had done against 
Israel's enemies. The national bond between Him and 
Israel was sundered ; He stood apart. Elijah is zealous for 
the Lord of Hosts ; his zeal for Israel is small. So far as he 
^is_concerned. Israel may perish ; but 

The conflict which thus came to a head in the age of 

Elijah, and to an issue in the revolution of Jehu, was more 

an external one, at least probably in the minds of many. 

Jehovah was recognised as God alone in Israel. Consequently 

^this was followed by a conflict more inward. Though Baal 

is another than Jehovah was set aside, Baal had incorporated 

limself in Jehovah. Jehovah had Himself become a Baal 

jhad been localised, as one might say. Now, the conflict was 

me not between Jehovah and another ; it was an internal 


one between Jehovah and Jehovah-Baal, as we might say, 
between two conceptions of Jehovah, the popular and the 
prophetic. In the popular conception, Jehovah was still 
mainly their national God, inseparably allied to them, the 
God of the land, (giver of its corn and winey and whose 
most pleasing service was sacrifice and offering; while to 
the prophets He was a purely ethical Being, elevated far 
above the people, the righteous Ruler of men, to whom 
material offerings were inappreciable, and whose service 
could be nothing but a righteous life. 

When the prophets assail sacrifices and material offerings, 
their position, I think, is not this, that sacrifices, without a 
moral life corresponding to God's will, are unacceptable to 
Him ; it is rather this, they oppose the popular conception, 
and say, " Jehovah desires this and not that." The people 
thought He desired sacrifices ; the prophets, in opposition to 
this, maintain that He desires a moral life ; and He desires 
this so much more than anything else, that He may be said 
, not to desire anything else at all : " I desire goodness and 
not sacrifices, and the knowledge of God rather than burnt 
offering." l 

What proportion existed between the prophetic party 
and the more backward popular party cannot be known. 

,IK a whole, amounts to the per-_ 

feet ethicising of the conception of God. All writers agree 
that there were ethical elements in the conception from the 
first. Of course it becomes a question of the various elements 
in Israel, some of which might have a pure conception of 
deity, and some a conception less pure. But even those 
scholars who concede least, admit that in the prophetic age 
the conception of Jehovah was fully ethical. If from the 
^beginning Jehovah had moral characteristics, He has now 
a moral character. But many things flow from this. The 
moral is of no nationality, it transcends nationality and is 

1 Hos. 6 6 . 


human. The righteous God is God universal, God over all. 
Moreover, a God whose being is moral is less God of nature 
than of human society and life. He is God of history, and 
history thus becomes a moral process, not the history of 
Israel only, but of mankind. The principles of the human 
economy over all reflect themselves in the mind of the 
prophets, and the economy is recognised to be moral. 

But further, if history be a moral process, it will have a 
goal which is also moral, and which will at last realise per- 
fectly its principles, seen to be imperfectly realised now. Thus 
arises an eschatology which proclaims that in the last days 
there shall be established a universal kingdom which will be 
a perfect kingdom of God upon the earth, bringing in ever- 
lasting righteousness. Hie movement of the prophetic^thoughi 
towards universalism was aided by the entrance ol-tks- 
great empires of Assyria and Babylon on the stage of history. 
This gave them a new idea, which the smaller States had 
not yet suggested, the idea of the world. It created a new 
antithesis, Jehovah and the world ; and it opened up a new 
realm for the rule of Jehovah, their King, even all the 
nations of the earth. 

At all the great crises in Israel's history prophets 
appear, teaching the people why it is that God is so trying 
and chastising them ; and then, by opening up views of 

the future, they animate the people with such thoughts as 
enable them, to face and pass through the crisis, still re- 
taining their faith in Jehovah. Jeremiah, for example, by 
teaching that the kingdom of God was not bound to the 
form of a State, that though the State perished the people 
remained, and their fellowship with Jehovah remained, 
enabled his people to enter upon and outlive, as a religious 
community, the terrible disaster of the Exile. The state of 
the people's mind, and the condition of the land soon after 
the fall of the city, its desolation, the dreary silence in the 
streets and gates of Jerusalem, which used to ring with the 


joy of feasts and dances, and the sense of humiliation of 
the people as a nation among the nations, are reflected in the 
beautiful collection of elegies known as ' The Lamentations ' ; 
while, somewhat later, the delirium of hope created by the 
victories of Cyrus and the gorgeous anticipations of a restored 
nation, and, through its restoration, of the evangelising of the 
world and the turning of all nations to the true God, fill the 
pages of the second Isaiah. 

Thus the prophetic principles regarding Jehovah were 
conspicuously illustrated in the national history. Jehovah 
was God alone. He was righteous. His nature was in- 
scribed in letters of fire across the people's life and experi- 
ence. But, being written on the national history, these 
principles were as yet, to the individual mind, rather abstract. 
They were schematic, diagrammatic, seen to be true on the 
grand scale, and intellectually hardly yet felt to be true in 
the experience of the individual. They had to be assimilated 
into the personal experience, equated by reflection with the 
condition of the world, the state of the people, and the experi- 
ence of the individual person. This process resulted, on the 
one hand, in a profound personal piety, such as we observe in 
the Psalms ; but, on the other hand, it raised great problems, 
all of which became eventually problems about God. 

(1) JehoyahL_was God alone .and- righteous ; yet He tok 
no pains to assert Himself against the workL He slept ; the 
~~throne of the universe seemed vacant ; the nations knew Him 
not, and wrought unchecked their cruelties and devastations 
on the earth. (2) So, too, Israel was His people; they pre- 
served the truth ; His cause and theirs was one. Because 
the eternal truth was among them and in their hearts, they 
were righteous as against the world, but all appeals to His 
tribunal were vain ; their passionate cries that He would 
arise and plead their cause, and their passionate hopes, " He 
is near that will justify me," 1 only expired on the air. 

1 Isa. 50 8 . 


(3) In like manner the individual pined away, solitary and 
neglected " Mine eyes fail while I look for my God." 1 More 
daring spirits, like Job, rose in rebellion. The throne of the 
world was not vacant ; it was filled by an Unrighteousness. 
The human conscience rose, and, proclaiming itself greater 
than Him, deposed Him from His seat. The Old Testament 
closed, leaving these conflicts still undecided. The people 
found a certain peace in hopes of the future, and endured as 
seeing Him who is invisible. The individual, too, caught 
glimpses of a future beyond the borders of this life, and in 
an ecstasy of faith could say, " I know that I shall see God." 
A few in their loftiest moments were able to bring the recon- 
ciliation into the present, and feel it, if not think it : " Never- 
theless I am continually with Thee." 2 

The several stages, therefore, through which Israel's 
history ran, led the thoughts of prophets and people~ever 
more and more from the external to the inward in Jehovah. 

"First, the victories He gave them at the Exodus, at the 
entrance into Canaan, and in David's clays, revealed the 
i power of Jehovah. He was greater and mightier than all gods. 
Next, their defeats in after days, and the dissolution of the 
State during the prophetic age, revealed to them His inward 
Being. No prophet or writer ever attributed Israel's disasters 
to the might of the nations or their gods ; they were due to 
Jehovah Himself, their own God. They were chastisements 
for their sin, revealing the moral nature of Jehovah. And 
finally, in the depression that lay on them after the Exile, 
never uplifted, they learned to transcend both history and 
external conditions, and to know Jehovah as a spiritual. 
fe}lowghip. Jehovah was God of the spirits of all flesh. 3 
They were ever with Him. They were satisfied with His 
likeness. 4 

l Ps. 69 3 . 2 Ps. 73 23 . 8 Num. 16" 27 16 . 4 Ps. 17 15 . 



THE historical development of Old Testament prophecy 
having been described, it will now be of advantage to look at 
prophecy itself as a distinct and independent phenomenon. 
It is almost the most remarkable phenomenon in Israelitish 
life, indeed, with one exception, the most remarkable. 
That one exception is the Decalogue. This simple, bare, 
abstract embodiment, in ten words, of the whole life of 
man, both in relation to one another and to God, is the 
most wonderful thing in the history of the human race. It 
stands, like Sinai with which it is associated, distant, solitary, 
and hid in heaven ; and the people and the man who gave it 
to the rest of the world must ever excite our wonder and 
compel our veneration. Yet even the Decalogue might be 
considered a product of prophecy in the larger sense. Moses 
was, as we have seen, a prophet. He knows no higher title 
for himself : " A prophet shall Jehovah thy God raise up 
unto thee, of thy brethren, like unto me ; him shall ye hear." l 
But there is a distinction drawn between Moses and the 
other prophets : " If there be a prophet among you, I the 
Lord will make Myself known unto him in a vision, and will 
speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so . . . 
with him will I speak mouth to mouth." 2 " There arose not 
a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord 
knew face to face." 3 Moses was no ordinary prophet, and 
no prophet could have done his work. That calm, unim- 

1 Deut. 18 15 . 2 Num. 12 s . 3 Deut. 34 10 . 



passioned abstraction, called the Ten Commandments, could 
not have come from Amos, or Micah, or any of the prophets. 
These were all men of passion, living intense lives in the 
present. Such generalisations were beyond them. And that 
calm prophet of the wilderness, the prophet of mankind 
rather than of Israel, of whom only one passionate moment 
is recorded, could hardly have given out the fiery denun- 
ciations of later men. It will be best, therefore, to 
start with as few preconceptions as possible, and to draw 
our ideas of the prophets afresh from the prophets them- 

If,J;hen, we look into the prophetic literature, we find 
the prophets recognised as a_ distinct class, as much as the 
priests. In Jeremiah we read : " The law shall not perish 
from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word 
from the prophet." x In Ezekiel : " Mischief shall come upon 
mischief, and rumour upon rumour ; and they shall seek (in 
vain) a vision of the prophet ; and the law shall perish from 
the priest, and counsel from the ancients." 2 And again : " As 
the thief is ashamed when he is found, so is the house of 
Israel ashamed; they, their kings, their princes, and their 
priests, and their prophets." 3 There was not only a distinct 
class of men known as prophets, but, though the literary 
remains of very few of them are left to us, they must have 
been at various times, if not constantly, a very numerous 
class. It is recorded in the history of Elijah that the pious 
chamberlain Obadiah hid a hundred prophets in a cave, 
and saved them from the fury of Jezebel. 4 A few years 
later we are informed that at a great crisis " the king of 
Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred 
men, and said unto them, Shall I go against Kamoth Gilead 
to battle, or shall I forbear ? " 5 Many years before this, in 
the history of Saul, we read that, when anointed king, on his 

1 Jer. IS 18 . 2 Ezek. 7 26 . 3 Jer. 2 26 . 

4 1 Kings IS 4 ' 13 . 5 1 Kings 22 6 . 


way home a company of prophets met him, and the Spirit of 
God came upon him, and he prophesied among them, a 
phenomenon which gave rise to the proverb, " Is Saul also 
among the prophets ? " i 

If, now, we open any of the writings left us by members 
of this class of prophets, say Hosea, we find that it begins, 
" The word of Jehovah that came to Hosea, the son of Beeri " ; 
and some such phrase is used to characterise the writings of 
them all. If, further, we turn up these writings at any place, 
we find reference to this Jehovah : " Holy, holy, holy is 
Jehovah of hosts : the whole earth is full of His glory." 2 
" Woe unto them that go down to Egypt for help ; and stay on 
horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many ; and in 
horsemen, because they are very strong : but they look not unto 
the Holy One of Israel, neither seek Jehovah." 3 Jehovah 
is God God of Israel. He has been so for long ; always, 
indeed. " Hear this word," says Amos, " which Jehovah hath 
spoken against you, children of Israel, against the whole 
family which I brought up from the land of Egypt." 4 And 
Hosea represents Jehovah as speaking thus : " I am Jehovah 
thy God from the land of Egypt." 5 What attributes the 
prophets assign to this God of Israel we shall see after. All 
I am concerned to reach just now, in order to arrive at the 
idea of a prophet, is thaJL-ihe- prophets all believed in the 
existence of a God. This God they called specially Jehovah 
"God of Israel. The pTophet stood in special relation to Him. 
It jwas__this relation to Jehovah that made one a prophet. 
This relation was of such a kind, in the prophet's estimation, 
that he called what he said to his countrymen the word of 
Jehovah. Indeed, the prophet was the medium through which 
Jehovah, God of Israel, jpoke' to Israel^ as Amos says: 
" Surely the Lord Jehovah will do nothing, but He revealeth 
His secret unto His servants the prophets." G And again : 

1 1 Sam. 10 11 . 2 Isa. G 3 . 3 Isa. 31 1 . 

4 Amos 3 1 . B Hos. 13 4 . 6 Amos 3 7 . 


" The lion roareth, who will not fear ? the Lord Jehovah 
speaketh, who can but prophesy ? " l 

This is the prophet's idea of himself as appears in Amos, 
one of the oldest of them ; and the idea was certainly shared 
by the bulk of the prophet's countrymen. I do not say it 
was shared by all. Some scoffed, though scoffing is some- 
times only a cover for a secret belief that is disliked, though 
it cannot be shaken off. They sneered at the prophet's 
denunciations and threats of a vengeance that never came : 
" Woe to them that say, Let Him make speed, and hasten 
His work, that we may see it : and let the counsel of the 
Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know 
it ! " 2 There were professed sceptics in Israel down through 
her whole history. These men, no doubt, formed a school. 
They are frequently attacked in Proverbs under the name of 
scorners; and we learn from the 1st Psalm that they formed 
a society, as he is declared happy who does not sit in their 
seat or assembly. Perhaps at one time in Isaiah's days the 
reins of power had got completely into their hands, for that 
prophet exclaims, " Hear the word of Jehovah, ye scornful 
men," i.e. ye sceptics, "that rule this people which is in 
Jerusalem." 3 The word may here be applied generally ; but 
the more the internal life of Israel is studied, the more will 
the same tendencies be discovered that manifest themselves 
among ourselves. The prophets and their writings are the 
exponents of the divine ; the idea of a living, self -imparting 
God is the very well-spring of prophecy. But the opposite 
or humanitarian tendency had also its devoted followers. 
Those studies of human life, those efforts to express the laws 
of well-being, those profound ethical generalisations on man, 
current under the name of the Proverbs of Solomon, are 
decidedly humanitarian. In them, everything that is Jewish 
and particular disappears. It is man and the law of 
his perfection that is meditated upon. And this tendency 

1 Amos 3 s . - Isa. 5 19 . J Isa. 28 14 . 


very readily ran into excess, and became naturalistic and 
sceptical. But, as I have said, the mass of the Israelites 
certainly agreed with the prophet, both in his estimate of 
nms^If~and~ln~what was presupposed by it. They believed 
odT This God was a living, self-communicating God. 
[is name was Jehovah. He was God of Israel. He made 
[imself known. He made His will understood by Israel, 
>ut He spoke to Israel through certain men. These were 
prophets. That this view was the prevalent one will appear 
if we consider the names applied to the prophets ; and this 
consideration will also enable us to form a more exact idea 
of the prophet himself, and of his office and functions. 

1. To begin, therefore, with the vaguest and most external 
name. The prophet is called tnan of God; a man of God 
D'r6K B*K ; i the man of God D^n &$* xhis is the usual 
name for a prophet in the early days. It is used of Moses, 
Samuel, and David. It is the standing designation of the 
great prophets of Israel, Elijah and Elisha. When the son 
of the woman in Zarephath, with whom Elijah lived, fell 
sick and died, she said, " What have I to do with thee, 
thou man of God ? art thou come unto me to call my sin to 
remembrance, and to slay my son ? " 3 The Shunammite made 
a little chamber for Elisha, and set there a bed and a table, 
and a stool and a candlestick, because he was an holy man of 
God ; and when her child died, she laid him on the bed of the 
man of God. 4 This name gives the most general idea of the 
prophet : he is one that was thought to be more closely 
related to God than otherjnen. The term also calls to mind 
the moral character of the prophet, and the ethical nature 
of all prophecy, the woman said an holy man of God, and an 
apostle repeats her words : " Holy men spake from God, moved 
by the Holy Ghost." 5 

2. Again, the prophets are named Servants of Jehovah 

1 1 Sam. 9 6 . " 1 Kings 12 22 . 3 1 Kings 17 18 . 

4 2 Kings 4. 5 2 Pet. I 21 . 


niiT nay. This is a very common designation, and adds 
something to the preceding. The expression ' Servant^ oi 
Jehovah ^always implies public service. There is a certain 
officialness about the prophet. Whatever designs Jehovah 
had, the prophet was active in fulfilling them. The designs 
of God all belong to one definite intention, and the prophet is 
active in effecting it. This name is very often applied to 
Moses, who, as embodying in himself all the mediatorial 
functions as Founder of the Theocracy, had all the mediatorial 
names competently applied to him in their highest meaning. 

3. Once more, the prophet is called Messenger of Jehovah 
mrr *JK!>D = Angel of the Lord. " Who is blind, but My servant? 
or deaf, as My messenger that I send ? " 1 " Behold, I will 
send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me." 2 
This name likewise adds something to the preceding. It 
defines the kind of service which the prophet is employed 
on, it is in messages from God. This, of course, suggests 

_ __~ 

hose to whom he is sent, namely, men. This word messenger 
expresses what is exceedingly conspicuous in the prophets, 
namely, the sense of authority with which they spoke. They 
elt charged with a message. It is an exceedingly interesting 
uestion what this feeling was like, and how they verified it 
to themselves. It is indeed hardly probable that they verified 
it at all ; but certainly they all had it. Prophecy is the 
intuition of truth, accompanied by the feeling that the truth 
was immediately communicated by Jehovah. 

4. The prophet is perhaps also called Interpreter 

" Thy first father sinned, and thy interpreters transgressed 
against Me." 3 The prophets were Israel's interpreters, men 

who interpreted to Israel God's ways. This name is exceed- 
ingly descriptive of the whole attitude of the prophet : he 
interpreted God's doings to men ; he realised the meaning of 
Israelitish history, and expressed it to the people. No name 
is more apt. The history reflected itself in the prophet's 

1 Isa. 42 19 . - Mai. 3 1 . 3 Isa. 43 27 . 


mind as in a mirror, and through him the nation read the 
meaning of God's procedure with it. As this truth reflected 
itself in the prophet's mind, it awoke in himself also the 
sense of his people's sin and imperfection. He is, so to speak, 
their conscience. 

ow, then, we have gone so far, and found the ideas 
entertained regarding the prophet to be that he was a man 
of God, a servant of Jehovah, a messenger from God, an 
interpreter to Israel. What alone is wanted to give a full 
description of the prophet, as conceived in Israel, would be 
some indication, on the one hand, as to how he became 
possessed of the mind or word of Jehovah with which he 
came as messenger and interpreter to men ; and, on the 
other hand, some indication of the way in which he com- 
municated it to men, to whom he came from God. These 
elements, needful to the full definition, are supplied by two 
other names, which are the most common by which the 
prophet is known. These names are Seer and Prophet. 

5. Two Hebrew names are translated Seer, namely, rush 
and HTh. nx'~i is one of the oldest terms for prophet. The his- 
torical order is, no doubt, this : n&p, nth, fcOiu. The word nsn 
as a name for ' seer ' went out of use, although it left its 
noun-forms n ^1^?, n ^"}'?, etc., behind it ; and the word nth 
came in and took its place. In 1 Sam. 9 9 we are told, " He 
that is now called a prophet (&*'?}) was beforetime called 
a seer " (^h). In this chapter Samuel is frequently called 
n&p, and, indeed, he calls himself so. 1 In 2 Chron. 1 6 7 it 
is said, " Hanani the seer ( n ^pn) came to Asa, and Asa was 
wroth with the seer." So in Isa. 30 10 : "Which say to the 
seers, See not." 

The other term nth is more frequent. In 2 Sam. 24 11 
Gad is called both prophet (N^) and seer (nrh) K'qan 13 
^H n r i - I n 1 Chron. 25 5 the sons of Heman, the king's seer, 
are mentioned; and in 2 Chron. 19 2 the same Hauani, who 

1 1 Sam. 9 19 . 



in 16 7 is called nxnn, i s styled mhn. In 2 Chron. 33 18 - 19 the 
words of the seers are spoken of. The term perhaps gradually 
passed out of use. But it was still employed as late as the 
prophet Amos ; for Amaziah, the priest of Jeroboam at Bethel, 
says to him, " thou seer, go, flee thee away into the land of 
Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy there " ; 1 and even 
later, for Isaiah says : " Jehovah hath closed your eyes, the 
prophets ; and your heads, the seers, hath He covered " ; 2 and 
in the following chapter he plays upon both terms and their 
respective verbs, and speaks of lying children, " Which say 
to the seers, See not ; and to the prophets, Prophesy not " 
itnn & onn>i i-in & tfti-b. In Mic. 3 7 it is used along with 
DW33 and D'ppp (diviners). 

The verb nxn being the word in common use for ' see,' the 
more elevated term ntn took its place for prophetic sight. 
But what exactly is it that is indicated by these two terms ? 
\ Perhaps at first not more than this, that the persons so named 
\ had a capacity for seeing higher than that possessed by ordinary 
\ men. They had insight and discernment^ This was not 
confined always to divine things, or to crises in religious life ; 
it might, though rarely, be exercised on matters of domestic 
interest. But in all likelihood this superior insight was not 
considered a mere natural gift, but a special endowment from 
God. Again, as this insight was not habitual to the seer, 
nor the result of superior shrewdness or mental endow- 
ments of the ordinary kind, but was attained by him only 
/ ^occasionally and when in particular conditions, these states 
of abstraction, more or less complete, which in early times 
almost always accompanied the exercise of the seer's function, 
came to be considered an invariable element of the idea. 
Thus the seer was one who had extraordinary insight into 
the things of religious life, reached by way of vision. 

Now, that state of abstraction or rapture, into which the 
seer fell, was very common in the East in early times, and 
1 Amos 7 12 . 2 Isa. 29 10 . 


even in other parts of the world. It was an accompaniment 
of profound mental activity. The person who was in that 
state was said to be in vision, or in the spirit. The truth 
which then dawned on his mind was called a vision (i^C 1 ), and 
he was said to see it. It was generally in this way that the 
prophet attained to truth. He was a seer " the vision 
which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw." Naturally, however, 
the phraseology that arose in this way continued to be used 
in regard to the prophets and their utterances, even when no 
ecstatic vision preceded the oracles which they gave. 

6. Two other names of the same kind as seer are na'v, 
properly spy-er, sentinel, man on the outlook ; and "ip"^ ivatch- 
man. These are words that describe not so much the actual 
mode of reaching truth as the kind of effort put forth by the 
prophet to reach it. He_look_ed out^he^ watched for God's 
^revelation. These two words suggest voluntary effort ; the 
previous two describe an involuntary state. The word nax 
belongs rather to later usage, and is taken from the practice 
of setting a watchman on a tower to spy out and give notice 
of the first distant sign of danger or help. Thus Habakknk 
says : " I will stand upon my watch, and will set me upon 
the tower, and will watch ^Nl to see what He will say unto 
me." And the tidings came : " And the Lord answered me, 
and said." 1 Thus nnv is nut.lnnl: t n.nd nfn is insight. 

7. The only other element which is needful to complete 
the idea of prophet is that one by which his mode of com- 
municating with men is described. The most outstanding 
thing about the prophets, at least in the early and most 
powerful days of prophecy, was their habit of addressing men, 
even the highest. Hence what struck people most about 
them was their public speech. Accordingly, this appears to 
have furnished the term which is the commonest of all, 

namely, N^ ; though this title, as we should expect, embodies 
in it several of the other elements. 

1 Hab. 2 1 - 2 . 


The difficulty in ascertaining definitely the philological 
meaning of soas is due to the fact that the meaning, both of 
its root and of its form, is uncertain. For a long time it 
was generally considered that &^3J was a passive, or at least 
neuter participle, of the form ?^P = ^Bp ; but it is now held 
to be more likely that it has an active meaning like "i^'P 
harvester, Tips overseer, and other words of the same form. 
As to the root, several explanations are given. It may be 
akin to the Hebrew VI), to bubble up, to burst forth with 
violence, cf. V?3 ?n3 = a bubbling brook ; 1 or it may be from 
an Arabic verb meaning ' to speak.' It is certain that the 
word itself occurs in Arabic ; but then, instead of being 
originally Arabic, it may be a loan-word from Hebrew, as it 
is in other dialects. 

Now, if N33 were really connected with j?23, as is, however, 
not very probable, it would describe the prophet on the side 
of his communications with men in the same way that nth and 
ns'i describe him on the side of his relations with God. The 
latter intimate that he had insight into divine things ; this 
would intimate that he spoke to men in an excited and 
impassioned manner. Now, no doubt, the verbal forms from 
toaa, namely, N33 5 the Niphal, and N-^nn, the Hithpael, mean 
both to prophesy and to conduct one's self like a prophet, to 
be excited, to rave. It was, at least, very commonly the 
case that the prophet did present this wild appearance, and 
that he was altogether mastered by the power of the truths 
he had to utter ; and so completely was he under their 
domination, that various physical effects of prostration or 
excitement followed, as when Saul lay all night naked on 
the ground and demeaned himself like a prophet. The 
/ balance of probability, however, is in favour of the root Nin 
being a common possession of the Semitic languages, since 
it is found in Assyrian in the name of the God of Eloquence, 
Nebo, the Mercury of Babylonia. It is quite likely, however, 

1 Prov. 18 4 . 


that the verb, in all cases where it has a sense that comes 
into consideration here, is really a denominative from the 
noun, and thus casts no light at all on the meaning of that 
noun itself. The native inhabitants of Canaan, worshippers 
of Baal, had also their prophets, and in great numbers. But 
these seem more allied to what we should call priests than 
to the Hebrew prophets. From the description given of 
them in the history of Elijah, where they are represented 
as leaping wildly about and cutting themselves with knives, 
they have been thought to resemble those called, in modern 
times, dervishes. What characterised them was their__wild 
and frenzied excitement ; and it has been thought that this 
excitation was probably the characteristic, expressed by the 
name etymologically, or at least suggested by it in usage. 
Then, further, it is suggested that the name passed over from 
the Canaanites to the Hebrews in some such way as this. 
During the Philistine oppression in the time of Samuel, the 
national feeling of Israel was powerfully awakened. Bauds 
of enthusiasts joined together, partly of those whose national 
and religious feeling was already stirred, and partly with the 
view of stirring it in each other, and in the hearts of the 
people. These roaming enthusiasts seemed to the people to 
resemble not a little the B'wn: of Baal and the Canaanites, 
and they gave them the same name prophets. 

I do not know that this hypothesis is very probable. It 
is certainly true that the verb derived from N'aj means many 
times to rave, or be excited, as in the case of Saul ; and 
there lingered long an idea that a certain excited demeanour 

was characteristic of the N^: ; for the soldiers of Jehu the 
son of Nimshi called the prophet who came to anoint their 
captain king, a wild fellow or maniac. In the same way 
the Greek fidvTL? and pan'opai are connected. But as the 
Canaanites spoke the same language as the Hebrews, one 
does not perceive why the latter should need to borrow the 
Canaanite word, even on the hypothesis still a hypothesis 


only that this excitation was what the word expressed. 
Nor is it very probable that they would care to borrow a 
word from their Canaanite foes to express what was really 
the rnost distinctive thing in their own history. Besides, the 
Canaanite ' prophets,' to whom the title N 11 ^ is applied, do 
not appear till the time of Ahab and Elijah ; and then they 
are the prophets of the Tyrian or Zidonian Baal. Nor is it 
certain that such prophets were general among the Canaanites. 
What is certain, at any rate, is that the word &?) was in use 
among the Hebrews long before the time of Elijah. 

In this connection it ought also to be mentioned that 
there is another phrase, n^" 1 ? tys man of the spirit, which is 
occasionally applied to the prophets. Hosea, for instance, 
declares that " the prophet is a fool, the man of the spirit is 
become mad " ; l and Micah says of himself : " I am full of 
power by the Spirit of Jehovah to declare to Jacob his 
transgressions, and to Israel his sins." 2 

Thus, while the root X33 meant to announce or utter in 
an excited, exalted manner, as used in Hebrew it always 
implies that the speaker's exaltation is due to the Spirit of 
God, and that what such a speaker announces is from God. 
But, of course, the terminology which arose in the earlier 
times of prophecy, when there really was excited utterance, 
was retained long after excitation had ceased to be a necessary 
accompaniment of prophetic speech. We seem entitled, then, 
to come to the conclusion that N^ji means not only a speaker, 
but an excited, impassioned speaker. So far, however, as 
Hebrew usage goes, the word never appears in a sense quite 
so indeterminate as this. It invariably has the meaning 
of one who speaks for God, one who is God's mouthpiece. 
There are two passages in the Pentateuch which, by their 
relation to each other, make this statement absolutely certain. 
The classical passage Ex. 7 1 not only settles that this is 
the meaning of N^a, namely, ' one who speaks from God to 
1 Hos. 9 7 . - Mic. 3 8 . 


men,' but also what we are entitled to say is included in 
that. It runs thus : " And Jehovah said to Moses, See, I 
have made thee a god to Pharaoh : and Aaron thy brother 
shall be thy prophet nvr T firw rifd? D'r6g *pnna n&n 
^wi). In an earlier passage, Ex. 4 16 , while the phraseology 
is varied, it is equally illustrative of our argument. He 
(Aaron) shall be thy spokesman unto the people : and he 
shall be to thee a mouth, and thou shalt be to him a God 
nnsi nsb *fr"nw wn. Thus a prophet is, shortly, 

a man who speaks to men from God and for Gocf. 

Now we can hardly say that it is included in such a 
relation that God dictated words to the prophet. Such an 
idea would scarcely seem justified by the relation of Moses 
and Aaron, which is said to be an example of the prophetic 
relation. Moses, being no speaker, was afraid to present him- 
self before Pharaoh. Moses did not dictate words to Aaron. 
Since the employment of Aaron arose from his being better 
qualified for speech than Moses, can we argue, from the mere 
word ' prophet ' and the relation which it implied, that God 
dictated words to the prophet ? That may be ; but it is 
neither implied in the word, nor in those passages which 
define its meaning. But this seems implied in them : that 
the prophet spoke according to the mind of God, and was 
conscious of doing so ; that he spoke by commandment and 
commission of God, and was conscious of it; and that this 
commission was not a mere general preliminary consecration 
to an office, but a constantly renewed obligation to speak, and 
a supply of what to say on every specific occasion. 

Accordingly, to sum up the results of our investigation :" 
in the early times of prophecy, just as an abstracted ecstatic 
condition often accompanied the attaining of truth, so an 

excited demeanour often accompanied its delivery. Truth was 

new in those days. As it dawned on men they were shaken 
by it ; and when they uttered it, it was with an excitation not 
unnatural to those who for the first time felt its power. The 


moral world was an undiscovered region to them ; and as 
they sailed through unknown seas, and beheld one awful 
form after another rise to meet their eye, the grandeur of the 
view convulsed them with wonder and awe ; and as Truth 
unveiled to them her sublime face, these Orientals could not 
but utter passionate exclamations of surprise and joy, and 
earnestly press on others what they themselves had learned. 
I have said Truth ; &^?WAliUd&-k!M&3^^ It was He, 

indeed, that the prophet felt himself catching a sight of, He 
about whom were clouds and darkness ; but, like some awful 
mountain hid in heaven, through breaks of the clouds and 
a momentary sinking of the mists, they caught but short 
glimpses of Him. 

Perhaps the days of prophecy are over now. Truth has 
been won it has appeared. The veil has been torn from 
God's face. One has lived who said, " I am the Truth " ; 
" He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." Prophecy 
culminated, and perhaps really expired, in the Prophet of 
Nazareth. Yet the history of prophecy renews itself in 
the individual soul at least many times. There is the 
I dawning of truth, awful or beautiful; the corresponding 
excitation ; the growing of the light, until at last God's 
'face is seen in peace. But just as here, so it was in 
prophecy. Excitation was no essential of it, neither was the 
abstracted state or vision. The first prophet and the last, 
like unto him, seem both to have received and to have 
uttered truth with a calm demeanour, free from all perturba- 
tion of mind or excitement of manner. Truth came to them 
through no medium. Its rays were pure. One was Himself 
the Truth ; and with the other God spake face to face. So, 
too, the one was comparatively pure spirit, and the other 
perfectly. The rays of truth passed from their minds suffer- 
ing no refraction ; and when truth entered, it found no 
incongruous elements, and there followed no disturbance. 
But with other men that could not yet be. Disturbance is 


the mark of imperfection, of impreparedness. And, as has 
been seen, the word which we render ' prophet ' means 
properly excited speaker. That being so, it implies that the 
speaker spoke under a pressure from behind ; that he was 
acted upon by another, and carried forward to speak by an 
influence exerted upon him by God, whose messenger he was ; 
as the apostle expressed it, he spake, moved, i.e. carried 
forward, by the Holy Ghost. This is the meaning of the 
term ' prophet ' in Greek. It is an excited speaker, one 
who speaks under the influence of a God. And in Hebrew 
this additional idea of God behind the speaker, influencing 
him, is always present. Thus the prophet is one who speaks 
to men for God. Here, then, at last we have the ideas 
current in Israel about the prophet, and the definition of 
one. He is a man of Cfod, a servant of Jehovah, a 'messenger 
of God, an interpreter of God, a seer of the things of God, a 
speaker of the things of God to men. Three things are thus 
involved in the very word prophet, God, men, and one who 
acts as the medium of communication between them. This 
medium was the prophet. He could not be a prophet unless 
he spake to men ; he could not be a prophet unless he spake 
from God. 

Such a definition a speaker to men from God allows a 
very^extended sphere of action to the prophet. Particularly, 
we cannot ^r^tiictprophecy, "as it used to be restricted, to 
^prediction, or the foretelling of future events. So far as we 
see, prediction was actually an element in the activity of 
most of the prophets, even in that of the Prophet of Nazareth. 
And, indeed, the future was what the prophets lived in. 
While the affections of other peoples turned to the past, and 
to the dying glories of a sun that was set, the Hebrew people, 
under the guidance of their prophets, were eagerly awaiting 
the break of a better dawn. " It shall come to pass in the 
latter days," they were always saying, " that the mountain of 
the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the 


mountains, and all nations shall flow to it ; and Jehovah shall 
judge among the nations ; and they shall beat their swords to 
ploughshares." The people itself, and every office in it, and 
all its ideas, were predictions. Imperfect now, their perfection 
could only be in the future. But it was the prediction of 
longing for more fulness than was yet attained ; the prediction 
of dissatisfaction ; the prediction of hope, of anticipation, of 
awakened thoughts of human possibility and divine nearness ; 
the prediction of a kingdom of God, founded but not yet all 
comprehensive. All life in Israel was in this sense predict- 
ive ; and so especially prophecy, which was the mouthpiece 
of all these longings and hopes and joyful anticipations. But 
mere prediction of specific occurrences fills up but a very 
small part of the prophet's activity. Of Moses no predictions 
are recorded, unless this be one : " A Prophet shall the Lord 
your God raise up like unto me." Yet there arose not a 
prophet in Israel so great as he. His deeds were prophecies. 
He laid the foundation of the kingdom of God in Israel. 
He projected the ideal of a perfect humanity in that 
Decalogue which was given through him. 

Amidst the vast collection of sayings uttered by the 
Prophet of Nazareth, there are few predictions. A few sen- 
tences about His own death, and the destruction of Jerusalem, 
and the end of the world, sentences which, though predict- 
ive, involve the deepest truths of Christianity, and have 
almost nothing of contingency in them, are all that He 
uttered that can be called prediction. Expositions of the 
moral law ; practical maxims regarding life ; the inculcation 
of mercy and humility ; discourses on the nature of the 
kingdom of God among men ; assertions of the universal 
care of God, and His love and compassion for sinners ; 
deep sayings about Himself and His relation to God and to 
men, these and such like form the staple of His teaching. 
And perhaps the same proportion might be found between 
the predictions of the prophets and their general teaching. 


I The prophet was essentially a niaruQ.f the present, conditioned 

/ in his~deliverances by the necessities of bis time, to whigh 

fae^applied general ^rinciplesof_truth, jind only lifting the 

TeiTofthe future when it was needful to cheer or soberise 

/ the hearts of his contemporaries by the sight of what should 

^ certainly come. 

There are one or two things which the definition of a 
prophet just given suggests. As the prophet was a man of 
God, a messenger of God, an interpreter of God, and the 
like, we may assume that in this service all the man was 
called into requisition. I have not cared to say anything 
very definite about what that service was, for that is to 
be gathered from the study of the Prophetic Books. But 
that the prophets believed God had a distinct design in His 
administering the affairs of the world, we may readily con- 
ceive. That things were moving under His impulse and 
control to a definite effect, they certainly believed. They 
also certainly believed that they had been more or less put 
into possession of what that effect was. It may, in a word, be 
called a Kingdom of God. This isjihe main prophetic idea^^- 
akingdom of God. But what I wished to say was, that as 
men of God, all the man was called into requisition in guid- 
ing things to this result. Moral instincts, religious hopes, 
human aspirations, love of truth and beauty, patriotism, 
all sides of human nature were called into operation. 

The prophets were jthe bearers of the idea of God's design ; 
and this function of theirs being so general, needing men of 
such diverse types of mind and character, so as to enter into 
the circumstances and interpret to men the design in things, 
and put them on the true way of realising it, explains why the 
prophets formed no caste. They were not, like the priests, 
a tribe. The functions of the latter were more mechanical. 
Little talent was needed. A pure personal character sufficed. 
But the prophetic work required men of intellect and breadth, 
very often of great personal courage and weight, men of wide 


sympathies and skill and policy, who could be diplomatists, 
or tribunes, or kingmakers, or historians, or poets J -rrr^8.._the 
exigency of the time required. Hence it was needful to lay 
inder contribution the whole extent of the nation. Wherever 
a natural character was found adapted to the need of the 
time, there the prophetic career was open to him. It can 
hardly be doubted that the highest talent in the nation was 
drafted into the ranks of the prophets, for it is hardly con- 
ceivable that loftier genius could have existed among the 
people at any time than is displayed by Joel, or Micah, or 

Attempts have been made to explain the predictions in 
the prophets by regarding them as the_expressions ojjsagacity 
ancLpolitical or moral foresight. _ All thoughtfuTinen have 
in them something of the prophetic gift. By observing what 
has been, they can come pretty near what will be. A 
man may accustom himself to find the laws under events ; 
or to some high minds these laws may present themselves 
almost of themselves, and out of any given circumstances 
they may be able to sketch the future. Whether the pre- 
dictions of the prophets are to be so explained, is a question to 
be left over for the present. I refer to the opinion that they 
are, in order to show what qualities are recognised in the 
prophets. Nothing is more true than that Isaiah and Samuel 
and Jeremiah were statesmen of the highest capacity, and 
patriots of the most disinterested kind. ^Whatever insight 
and long experience and patient observation, coupled with 
skill to detect the moral laws that regulate human history, 
the thing most helpful to a statesman, though too seldom 
possessed, whatever insight and foresight all this could give, 
they possessed. 

Again, these predictions have been explained by supposing 
them mond__prseiLtiments. They are the passionate expres- 

\ sion of me desireior national prosperity, for the destruction 


\ of adversaries, for freedom, for peace, for the incoming of a 


better day, for the salvation of God. The heart of man is 
deep ; there well up heavenly aspirations out of it, strong 
sympathy with right, sharp impatience with oppression, 
instinctive hope of the triumph of good ; and these natural 
feelings, strongly expressed with all the moral energy that 
gives man such power, and makes even the shallowest heart 
prophetic of yet better things, these are the predictions 
which we find in the Old Testament. Whether they are so 
or no, I will not now dispute. But the qualities which this 
theory ascribes to the prophets, they certainly possessed. 
They were the foremost men in Israel, the most richly 
endowed moralists, poets, statesmen, the flower of the 



WE must now endeavour to come to an estimate of the 
position of the prophet in the theocracy. We have already 
found that a ' prophet,' according to the etymology and the 
usage of the word arm, means one who ' spake for God.' 
Such a definition allows a very extended sphere of action to 
the prophet. Particularly, we cannot restrict prophggy^ as it 
used to be restricted, to ^prediction. The prophets teach 
great religious truths, and_ illustrate their development ; t.hpy 
do not foretell contingent events. Joel does not predict 
Pentecost, he predicts the outpouring of God's Spirit ; and 
if any future outpouring were to take place, we should be 
entitled to consider it a fulfilment of his prophecy. The 
prophet spoke to the people, and, of course, to the people that 
then was, to that consciousness which waited for and listened 
to what he uttered. No doubt a prophet might speak things 
that referred to times beyond the then present of the people 
of God. The most powerful influence which a prophet, at 
many epochs of the people's history, could bring to bear on 
their minds, might be drawn from what he was able to 
indicate to them of the future, whether the future was to be 
full of mercy or of judgment. 

In point of fact, the characteristic attitude of J^he__01d_ 
Testament Church was its attitude of expectancy in regard 
to the future. This is even the attitude of the Church 

now, and has been in all ages. But it was so to a greater 
degree in the time of Israel. Then, salvation had been in 



no way realised as it is now. Men looked for it. They 
waited for the salvation of God. And there is perhaps no 
prophet who does not give some account of the final salva- 
tion of the people. For the manner of the prophets is to 
start from the condition of the people present to them, and, 
taking np the threads of need, or calamity, or sinfulness, to 
run them out in an unbroken line of divine interference, 
till they end in the great day when God shall come in 
His fulness for the deliverance of Zion. The prophet Joel, 
starting from the plagues of locusts and drought, which he 
regarded as direct judgments of God, does not pause till he 
shows how the same principles of God's government mani- 
fested in these plagues, in combination with His great re- 
demptive purpose, will find their perfect fulfilment in the 
final condition of things, when God will manifest Himself per- 
fectly in judgment and in mercy, in mercy by pouring out 
His Spirit on all flesh ; and in judgment in the terrible signs 
that precede and accompany the day of the Lord. All the 
prophets open up glimpses of this sort, although each does it 
in his own way, and in a manner suitable to the conditions 
of his own time, so as to be understood by the men to whom 
he spoke, and whom he desired to influence. 

To exert this influence upon the men of his own time, 
was the direct and main purpose of the prophet. He had 
not in his own mind a direct intention with regard to us. 
But what was written of old time, was written also for 
our learning, because our condition is still, even as that of 
the people then was, a condition of expectancy. And the 
principles of God's providence are unchangeable. And these 
ancient writings are full of instruction to us in another way. 
We are able to see how those to whom they were first 
addressed received them, and acted in respect to them ; and 
how by obedience or neglect, they became heirs of the 
promises, or fell short of them ; and thus we have not only 
the primary truth, but the secondary lesson drawn from the 


conduct of those to whom the truth first came. But, how- 
ever much the prophet referred to the future, his reference 
was designed to bear upon the condition of the people 
present to him, and to influence the men of his own age. 

Influenced partly, perhaps, by the name prophet, and 
partly, it may be, by the great apologetic use made of the 
prophecies in the New Testament, the Church was formerly 
inclined to lay almost exclusive stress upon the directly 
predictive element in prophecy, so as almost to consider 
prophecy and prediction to be things identical. But the 

Hebrew words for prophei dp jiot_guggest any__such pre-_ 
eminence of the element of prediction ; and modern writers 
on prophecy of all schools have drawn attention to the 
wider significance of the Hebrew terms. From writers of 
the Naturalistic school, such as Kuenen, who deny predic- 
tion altogether, this was to be expected. But writers of a 
wholly opposite school concur in assigning to prediction a 
limited place in the activity and writings of the men called 
prophets. Thus Dr. Payne Smith in his Bampton Lecture, 
entitled ' Prophecy, a preparation for Christ,' says : " It is 
possible that the wonderful series of absolute predictions 
respecting the person and offices of the Saviour may have 
led in many minds to too complete an identification of 
prophecy with the foretelling of future events" (p. 41). 
All this is of importance to remember. Yet, on the other 
hand, we must be on our guard against one-sidedness, and 
must take care not to exclude from our conception of 
prophecy the element of foresight and prediction. Our 
mental danger is reaction. When we have emancipated 
ourselves from one error, we are apt to fall immediately 
into the error opposed to it. It is perhaps true that mere 
contingent events are not often predicted, though there are 
examples even of this ; it is chiefly developments of the 
history and condition of the kingdom of God, but by no 
means always internal and moral developments. There are 


also external events on the stage of the world's history, 
which required to be brought about in order to allow of 
the inward expansion, which is, no doubt, the main object 
to which the prophets direct their mind. 

The true idea and rationale of prophecy on its more 
predictive side is given in a very remarkable chapter of 
Isaiah J _jeliapr-41. In this chapter, prediction of events is 
claimed for Jehovah and Israel, and denied to the gods and 
the idol worshippers. The events claimed to have been pre- 
dicted are the rise of Cyrus, and his victorious career and 
assault upon Babylon, events needful for the freeing of 
God's captives and the restoration of Israel, which again is 
necessary for the evangelising of the world. The predictive 
element in prophecy is there connected by the_jpropbet with 
the nature _ of Jehovah, HeTTsthe first and the last, He 
initiates all the movements of history, and He brings them to 
an end. He sees the end from the beginning. Thus He is 
able to foretell. But it is His relation to Israel that causes 
Him to foretell, and announce beforehand. For His purposes 
can only be fulfilled by the concurrence of men, to whom 
they must be revealed beforehand. He takes His people into 
His confidence, the light of Israel illuminates the future. 

The idea of a prophet as one nearer to God than other 
men, suggests how the prophet may obtain a knowledge of 
the secret counsel of God, and be able, and indeed under 
obligation and pressure, to proclaim it to the world. Hence 
Amos says : " Surely Jehovah doeth nothing, but He revealeth 
His secret (iiio) to His servants the prophets." l The Lord 
/ imparts His counsel to the prophets, and they in turn are 
constrained to impart it unto men. The prophet is the 
bearer to men of God's revelation, the bearer and the 
utterer, whether he bear it consciously or not, whether he 
utter it in words or not. Generally, or perhaps always, the 
prophet will be conscious of being charged with the truth. 

1 Amos 3 7 . 



Even the patriarchs must to this extent have understood 
their mission. Generally, too, though not always, the mode 
of divulging the truth will be by speech. Sometimes, how- 
ever, it is done by signs and miracles and judgments. Thus 
we might_ejdmust the conditions of prophecy byjsaying that 
it required knowledge of truth perjment_tp__the_time, and 

the feeling of pressure to declare it. 

Prophecy was the utterance of truth pertinent to the 
time. There is no such thing in Scripture as prophesying, 

or even speaking, atQarge. There was an occjsjonrforeyery' 
"scripture. When first uttered, it had a particular applica- 
tion. It has also a general application, because, though 
circumstances change, principles remain the same. Prophecy 
was the speaking of divine truth relevant to the occasion 
when it was spoken. Now, to go fully into the question of 
relevancy would be to discuss the question of the connection 
of prophecy with history in Israel. No doubt there is such 
a connection, and it is both intimate and, as we might say, 
intentional. The nation went through certain historical ex- 
periences, and prophecy deduced and applied their lessons. 
And this also is true, that these historical evolutions were 
of a kind containing in them much more moral teaching 
than the evolutions of ordinary history, though that, too, 
is teaching of the same kind. Jewish history teaches the 
same lessons as ordinary history, but much more per- 
spicuously. And prophecy deduces these lessons. 

Prophecy is the philosophy of history. Prophecy is his- 
tory become conscious, history expressing its own meaning. 
But prophecy is not the philosophy of ordinary, but of 
Jewish, history. Now, Jewish history consisted of two 
factors, human activity, as in ordinary history, and a 
supernatural divine guidance ; and therefore prophecy must 
partake of two factors also, human insight and divine 
illumination. Hence, as Jewish history did not move alto- 
gether like ordinary history, but was to some extent led by 


the supernatural divine element in it, prophecy must be 
instructed as to this divine element, and be able to 
anticipate and predict. And thus it was not confined 
rigidly to generalising on the part of history, or estimating 
the meaning of the present. Being, so to speak, the con- 
sciousness of history, of a history human and divine, it 
could foresee, too, whither the history was moving, and was 
able with certainty to forecast. 

The question whether prophecy and history are properly 
two co-ordinate things that fit exactly into one another, but 
are both independent, or whether prophecy be not rather 
secondary, the institutions and condition of the people at any 
time being primary, the mould, as it were, that gave it its 
shape, is a question that has been discussed by some scholars. 
But it is not probable that the prophetic office was a thing 
altogether secondary to the history. JPrpphecy did not. 
confine itself to mere interpreting, it addecL- It made 
contributions. Is it likely that all theocratic ideas were 
embodied in the theocracy ? There was a basis for them 
in the theocracy, but history may have added many; and 
prophecy may, by starting ideas, have given new turns to 
history. I should put prophecy on a footing co-ordinate 
with the institutions and the history, not make it the 
mere consciousness of them, but designed to add to them, 
to lead them to issues they would never otherwise have 

It cannot be supposed that Israelitish institutions were 
greater than Israelitish men ; that the history of Israel was 
so mechanical that it was an evolution by means of institu- 
tions merely, and not also through human minds, or indeed 
not mainly through human minds. I dislike any theory that 
would put any other source or means of revelation on a level 
with the mind of man. It is there that God will primarily 
beget the truths He reveals. Of course, even there He acts 
not without means, such as events and institutions ; but the 


events and institutions will only be the occasions, not the 
measure, of the prophetic truths. And even the institutions 
are the products of the human mind so far that they were 
imposed on Israel not mechanically, but through the co-agency 
of great minds. For the Mosaic ritual must be regarded as 
produced by the reasonable concurrence of men like Moses. 
The fact is evident that the ritual law grew, was modified, 
was at various times codified in parts, and at last authoritat- 
ively completed. 

If, on the other hand, prophecy were but secondary, 
then the way the prophets on all occasions readied their 
prophecies would be by a moral road, that is, by reflection 
on the nature of the kingdom of God, and on its present 
circumstances. Thus they would attain to a knowledge of 
what events must come about in order to its realising its 
true purpose, and thus they would be able with certainty 
to predict them. There is, however, the closest connection 
between the truth delivered at any particular time, and the 
crisis at which it was delivered. But to pursue this question 
would take us down through the whole course of the history 
to inquire how the prophet suited his words to the successive 
historical relations in which the people stood politically to 
other nations, and to the successive social conditions which 
the nation itself passed through during its life as a people. 
Let us look rather, at present, to the relations in which the 
prophet stood to those elements and phases in the State that 
were essential and invariable. : 

What was the place of prophecy among the other 
permanent institutions in the State ? What was its historical 
appearance as an institution in the theocracy, and what were 
its functions ? Now prophecy in this sense arose after the 
constitution had been settled. No doubt, if Abraham, as 
mediating between God and the world, as bearer of God's 
revelation, which was at this time almost condensed into the 
covenant of promise : " In thee and in thy seed shall all the 


families of the earth be blessed," 1 if Abraham was called 
a prophet, and truly, for no one ever was the medium of a 
higher revelation from God than this, so also was Moses. 
When predicting the rise of a prophet in after times whom 
the New Testament recognises as Christ, Moses said : " A 
Prophet like unto me shall the Lord your God raise up unto 
you." And the Old Testament knows no such high prophetic 
position as that of Moses : " There arose not a prophet since 
in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face." 2 
The office of Moses in ordering the constitution was prophetic. 
He mediated between men and God in the matter of revela- 
tion. He laid God's will before men. The great principles 
of law and morality came to the world by Moses. He was the 
prophet, less of the Jews than, we might say, of mankind. 
But he was more than a prophet. He combined in himself 
for a time all the powers and functions of the new theocracy. 
Hence the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews compares 
the Apostle, i.e. Prophet, and High Priest of our confession, 
even Jesus, to him, saying that Moses was faithful in all 
God's house as a servant, but Christ was faithful as a Son 
over His house. They agreed in being faithful, and in the 
universality of the sphere of their faithfulness, all God's house : 
they differed in this, that Moses was a servant in the house, 
Christ a Son over the house ; and faithfulness assumes a 
different complexion when it is that of a sou. 

And, in truth, there arose no prophet like unto Moses ; for 
those that followed him chiefly applied his work to their own 
time. But the prophetic office, as we are now speaking of it, 
was a machinery for carrying out the constitution given to 
the people of Israel by Moses, who, according to the idea of 
the Old Testament, was certainly a prophet : " By a prophet 
Jehovah led Israel out of Egypt; and by prophets was he 
preserved." 3 We shall therefore do most justice to the Old 
Testament idea of prophet if we regard the prophets as tho 
1 Gen. 12 3 . Deut. 34 10 . 3 Hos. 12 13 . 


successors of Moses, and as standing in the same free relation 
to God as he did. There was properly no prophetic office 
with defined functions like the priesthood. The prophet was 
simply a man called and commissioned by the God of Israel 
to take the religious destinies of the people into his own hand 
for the time being. This is the primary meaning of the oft- 
quoted passage in Deuteronomy : " A prophet shall Jehovah 
your God raise up of his brethren, like unto me," where ' a 
prophet ' refers primarily not to an individual but to a class, 
or to a succession of individuals. The passage warns Israel 
against listening to diviners such as abounded among the 
Canaanitish nations, and promises the people a succession of 
true prophets like unto Moses, who would receive com- 
munications from God directly, and not through the means 
employed by diviners. 

This definition sets the prophets in the same line with 
Moses : they were his legitimate successors. The only differ- 
ence between them was that, while he laboured as a Founder, 
they built on the foundation which he laid. They found a 
constitution made by him in some sort already existing. 
This constitution had certain principles. The prophets 
understood them, and explained them, and applied them 
to the constantly altering circumstances of the people. 
They were the bearers of the idea of the Theocracy, entrusted 
with it, and commissioned to carry it out till it reached its 
final intention. Now this office of theirs being so general, 
needed men of diverse types of mind and character so as to 
be adapted to enter into whatever crisis the State had reached, 
arid apply to it the principles of the constitution. The 
prophets directed the whole movements of the constitution, 
and wielded all its resources. Hence they had to be selected 
from the whole extent of the nation. Wherever a natural 
character was found adapted to the need of the time, its 
possessor might be called and commissioned to exercise the 
prophet's office. And when one so called sought to put away 



the office and its responsibilities from him, pleading his own 
unfitness and immaturity in spiritual things, saying, " Ah, 
Lord God, behold, I cannot speak, for I am a child," he was 
answered : " Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee ; 
and before thou earnest forth out of the womb I sanctified 
thee." x God had not prepared this development of the sacred 
history without having also beforehand prepared this man to 
be its prophet, to interpret it to the nation, and to guide it to 
its true issue. 

Now the prophets^ never represent themselves as.- the 
heralds of truths, or an order of things, wholly new. They 
stand on certain old and acknowledged foundations. The 
nove1ty_of their t.efl.p.hincr goes no further than to indicate 
how old truths are to be adapted to new circumstances,, jind_ 
how amidst necessary modification their essence is to be 
preserved. It is the men whom they oppose that are the 
innovators the men who sought to introduce other gods, or 
to degrade the spiritual worship of Jehovah into a sensuous 
ritualism. Such men were either pursuing false ends, which 
were not those set before the theocracy by Jehovah its head ; 
or they were attempting to promote what might be the true 
ends of the kingdom of God by false and deceptive means, 
as by worldly alliances with the idolatrous powers around. 
The prophets charge their opponents, and the people whose 
practices they denounce, with a retrograde movement : " They 
have forgotten the Holy One of Israel, they have gone away 
backward " ; and with declension in public morale : " They 
have corrupted themselves." 

Now the general presuppositions on which the prophets 
take their stand are these three: first, the idea of the 
covenant between Israel and Jehovah, whereby Jehovahjiad 
jtakiL-Israel^ out from among_t.hp. nation,^ fry election, to be_ 
His people, and had on tbe__othe side- become their God. 
This is the fundamental idea. But such an idea is a very 

1 Jer. I 5 - 6 . 


fertile one, and has many results. There follows from it 
the imitj_of__the worship. Any service of any other God 
was a breach of the fundamental paction between the two. 
But, further, Jehovah was not a Deity without attributes. 
On the contrary, His attributes were very distinct and pro- 
nounced : " The righteous Jehovah loveth righteousness." 
The covenant had conditions. It was to be maintained only 
by the observance of these. Such conditions are those briefly 
condensed into the Law of the Ten Words. Assuredly, there 
is no idea more fundamental in prophecy than this of the 
covenant relation of Jehovah and Israel. This is what is 
meant by saying that Israel shall be holy, i.e. consecrated to 
Jehovah. And when the ethical character of Jehovah shone 
out in its clearness to the eyes of men more and more, the 
purifying influence of such a relation was not to be cal- 
culated. Hence this relation of Jehovah to Israel was a 
ready axiom and instrument in the people's hand to apply 
to prophets who might come before them. If the prophet 
pretended to speak in any other name than that of Jehovah, 
he had judged himself ; instead of listening to him, they were 
to stone him. 

But this leads to the second idea, namely, that this 
/covenant relation between_Jehovah and Israel had a purpose^ 
in view, a goal set before iL_ This was, no doubt, contained 
in the very idea of the covenant ; but it was not yet realised. 
That purpose was the reaching of a perfect kingdom of God 
upon^the earth. This was Jehovah's intention in entering 
"into such relations with Israel. The covenant was the found- 
ing of such a kingdom. The kingdom was the external 
expression of the covenant. But forces within the covenant 
were to work towards its perfection. Its perfection was not 
yet attained, it lay in the future. But the germs of it were 
deposited in the idea of the covenant, and in the nature of 
the spiritual God that was worshipped, and in the conditions of 
the covenant. But these germs had to be expanded, till their 


principles should take possession of every heart among the 
people. And not among the people merely, but among man- 
kind. For prophecy was not particularistic or inclusive in 
any other sense than this, that it believed itself alone in 
possession of the truth for the present ; but the truth was 
destined by its means to become the heritage of all peoples. 
This idea of a kingdom of God, founded, and, though not yet 
realised, certain to be realised as a universal dominion, through 
Israel, is perhaps the great public idea of the prophets. 
This was the end the covenant had in view. And one can 
readily see what a variety of spiritual truths the prophets 
had occasion to develop in their endeavours to expound 
this idea, and to lead on the history of the nation to 
its accomplishment. 

Third, the forrnwhich this kingdom of God has, is the 
Theocracy, or external Jewish constitution. This is the 

"external form within which the true kingdom exists and is 
realised. The kingdom of God has already a shape, and it 
is this kingdom or government of Israel. The prophets and 
Old Testament writers do not speak of the kingdom or 
government of Israel in any other aspect of it than as it is 
the kingdom of God. The Old Testament does not conceive 
or speak of it as an ordinary kingdom among the kingdoms 
of the world. It is, as it then was, the kingdom of God. 
Hence the prophets do not draw any distinction between an 
inner or true spiritual kingdom and their own external one. 
Consequently, all their efforts are directed towards the well- 
being of the Israelitish State as it existed externally in their 
own day. This was the kingdom of God already founded, 

, destined to attain to a perfect purity of worship and morals ; 
destined to embrace not only Israel, biit all the world ; and 
every effort they could command was directed towards its 
conservation, and the right understanding of its principles, 
and the fulfilment of its great aims. 

It is, no doubt, the case in regard to this third point, that 


events came into conflict with their ideal, and at last taught 
them that the kingdom of God could exist apart from any 
embodiment of it in the form of a State. But even the 
teaching of this truth can hardly be said to have made them 
depart from their ideal. 

These are the main ideas that appear as presuppositions 
of the prophetic order itself, and of its teaching. These 
ideas have almost indefinite ramifications, and extend out 
into almost all the particular doctrines that form the pro- 
phetic teaching. To understand, therefore, the extent of 
the prophetic functions, we must first describe, at least in 
its broad outlines, the constitution of the theocracy. __Israe]_ 
existed^ both as a Church ^and as a nation. The people were 
[organised into that form and for those purposes which we 
\call a Church, and also into that form and for those pur- 
poses which we call a nation. I say into the one form of 
organisation, and also into the other. For though these 
two organisations were not at all so distinct as among our- 
selves, yet they were not among the Jews quite identical. 
It is true that the Church was coextensive with the nation, 
and that all the citizens were also members of the Church. 
And not only that, but they were members in virtue of 
being citizens. The visible form the Church took was the 
form of a State. Nevertheless the two aspects of the 
people are quite separable in idea, and ought to be kept 

Now the prophets stood related to the people in no less 
than three distinct characters, as simple individuals, as an 
ecclesiastical organism, and as a State. These are just the 
three relations in which men still stand to God. And the 
prophet was the mediator of God's revelation to the people in 
these three aspects. Thus the prophet's function most nearly 
corresponded to that of the preacher among ourselves, and 
even more nearly to the function assumed by such men as 
Knox and the Eeformers. The prophets were men who 


knew God's will, and had to declare it to all classes in 
their several conditions. Of course, they differed from Chris- 
tian ministers in this, that they not only expounded the 
Law, and a revelation already given ; their expositions were 
additional elements of the revelation. And the history they 
were interpreting was not ordinary, but redemptive, history. 

The prophet was the medium of communicating God's 
will to the people in addition to what of His will was already 
fixed, congealed, so to speak, in institutions. There was 
still a living fountain out of which there welled forth God's 
commands, and which sent its waters down through every 
channel of the State, beneath the crust of institution. This 
living fountain was the prophet. And he could speak with 
regard to every function in the State. But when he pro- 
ceeded to act, it was either because the emergency furnished 
no other man so fit, or because, in addition to being a 
prophet, he held other offices such as the priest's or the 
statesman's. It is quite plain that there were many judges, 
such as Othniel, Barak, and Samson, who were not prophets ; 
and, on the other hand, that there were prophets who were 
not judges. There were also prophets who were judges, such 
as Samuel and Deborah. But this no more implies that 
the prophet, in virtue of that office, was also judge, or civil 
ruler, than the fact that Eli was judge implies that this 
office was involved in the high priesthood. 

If, therefore, we bear in mind that the prophet was the 
point at which God's revelation and will to Israel was still, so 
to speak, fluid, and not congealed into institutions, we shall 
have a true idea of the prophetic office. For all other ways 
of knowing God's will seem gradually to have ceased. For 
a time, a kind of mechanical application under the direction 
of the priesthood, called the Urim and Tummim, was resorted 
to ; but this fell gradually into desuetude. God withdrew, 
and no longer spoke through it. Thus the prophet rose to 
be His one appointed organ of utterance. Even extra- 


ordinary messengers, called angels, are rarely sent to Israel 

^if ter tEe time of tEe~Judges,jwhen prpj3hecy_jmder Samuel _ 
"l>ecanie~anrecognised^ institution^ The prophet took up the 
"taw, anSTlnade it alive and powerful, giving it flexibility 
and novelty of application. He descended into the history, 
and in him the history became articulate, and spoke through 
him its meaning to the nation. He seized the spirit that 
lay imprisoned in every office and rite, and, stripping off the 
rigid form, displayed it to the eyes of the people. 

Thus, first of all, in relation to the individual men of 
he nation, the prophets were moral teachers. They every- 
where chastised wrong-doing, sensuality, drunkenness, and the 
too common oppression of the poor by the powerful, a vice 
that seems ineradicable from Oriental society. Hosea thus 
sums up the catalogue of offences : " In swearing, and lying, 
and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break 
out, and blood toucheth blood." l The prophets everywhere 
hold up before the people the inevitable consequence of 
these sins, political dissolution. From the combination of 
these two ideas, a reprover and guardian of the morals of the 
people, and an outlooker or watcher for events that shall 
develop the present crisis, and be the punishment or reward of 
the people's action, the prophet received the name of watch- 
man (W) or outlooker (na. Thus in Isa. 2 1 11 : " One calleth 
to me out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night ? " And in 
the same chapter, v. 6 : " Go, set a watchman, and let him 
declare what he seeth." But this idea is most fully realised 
in later prophecy, e.g. Ezek. 3 17 ~ 21 . 

Again, as ecclesiastics, the prophets often denounced the 
people's carelessness in sacrificing, the perfunctoriness and 
joutine of their ecclesiastical performances. Thus Isaiah 
says : " Bring no more vain oblations ; incense is an abomina- 
tion unto me." 2 And Amos : " I hate, I despise your feast 
days ; I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. Take 

1 Hos. 4. 2 Isa. I 13 . 


away from me the noise of thy songs ; but let judgment run 
down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream." 1 
Everywhere the prophets seek to recall the people to the 
real meaning of their ecclesiastical rites, and everywhere they 
exalt this meaning above the mere ritual. " 1 will have mercy, 
and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt- 
offerings," 2 says Hosea. Even when the State was overthrown 
at the Exile, they look for its restoration. Perhaps these three 
fundamental presuppositions of prophecy might be put other- 
wise, and more nearly in terms of the Old Testament itself. 

The prophetic teaching presupposes, and rests upon, two 
principles and a fact, first, that Jehovah is Israel's God 
alone ; and, second, that Jehovah, Israel's God, is ethical in 
His Being, and demands moral life from those that serve Him 
as His people. And these two principles are, so to speak, 
fused together into an emotional unity by the fact of re- 
demption, which the people had experienced, and which 
brought them into existence. These two principles and this 
fact are the essential meaning of the Decalogue. They are 
the prophetic presuppositions ; and the prophetic teaching 
consists in their expansion and application to the nation's 
conscience at all times. " He hath showed thee, man, what 
is just ; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do 
justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God ? " 3 
is the language of Micah. " Will the Lord be pleased with 
thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil ? " 4 

Thus, even in teaching, a great difference existed between 
the prophets and the priests. The latter merely taught the 
rites to be performed ; the prophets drew out the spiritual 
truths everywhere underlying the ritual. The text of all pro- 

That book is a homily on 

the constitution. It is the Sinaitic covenant, and the redemp- 
tive history translated into its principles. And the prophets 
are never weary of appealing to it. Indeed, so singular is the 
1 Amos 5- 1 ' 24 . a Hos. G' J . 3 Mic. 6 8 . * Mic. 6 7 . 


similarity that many critics maintain Deuteronomy to be a 
compilation from the prophets, to be the Mosaic constitu- 
tion from the point of view of prophecy in the age of Heze- 
kiah or Manasseh. That is a critical question, and the way 
we answer it need not affect either our idea of what prophecy 
is, or what Deuteronomy is, though, of course, it affects our 
opinion of the relation between them, and perhaps our idea 
of the era at which the views of the constitution given out in 
Hebrew prophecy came to be current in the nation. 

Finally^Jhe^coiistitution being that of a State of which 
God was King, the prophets were Charged with leading it on 
to its true consummation, and so they became statesmen. 
vVnd no land has seen loftier patriotism or profounder political 
wisdom than these prophets displayed ; nor has the love of 
country ever led to greater sacrifices than were borne by 
Jeremiah, and Isaiah, and Micah ben Jimlah. I need refer 
only to the history of these men, and to the interviews 
between Elijah and Ahab, between Isaiah and Ahaz, between 
Jeremiah and Zedekiah, to show both the wisdom and the 
influence which they possessed. 

Having thus seen the threefold character of prophetic 
teaching, we must now proceed to consider the pressure God 
brought to bear upon the prophets. The Jewish constitution 
was peculiar in giving, if we may say it, so prominent a place 
to God in all its departments. God was the head of all, 
the head alike of the individual, the Church, and the State. 
Thus the prophet, God's living mouthpiece, came into contact 
with the people, both singly and in all the combinations into 
which they entered. The prophet spake from God to the 
people. And he spake under pressure, he was obliged to 
speak the word of God. As Jeremiah says : " His word was 
in my heart as a burning fire shut up in niy bones, and I 
was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay." l Now 
this has always seemed to me an interesting question. What 

1 Jcr. 20 U . 


kind of feeling was that which the prophets describe when 
they say, " The word of the Lord came to them " ? what kind 
of feeling was it which they experienced, when under that 
pressure to speak, which they so often refer to ? They were 
assured that God was calling them, and was speaking in 
them. Was that state of mind of theirs one that can be 
identified with any known state of mind among ourselves ? 
They do give the most positive assurances that what they 
are speaking is from God ; and they do distinguish between 
this and what might have been from themselves, " out of 
their own heart " ; but as to the means by which, or the 
grounds on which, they make this distinction, they are 

On the one hand, it is not likely that the prophets 
reached a belief in the divinity of the thoughts they gave 
expression to, by reflecting on them, and seeing their har- 
mony with other divine truth, and their applicability to the 
present crisis in the nation or Church. This method of 
testing prophetic utterances by their harmony with the prin- 
ciples of the theocracy was an instrument employed rather by 
others than by the prophets themselves, though, no doubt, 
a prophet might have subjected his own thoughts also to 
such a test. But there is no evidence that any prophet 
ever proved to himself, by such means as this, that it was 
the word of God that came to him. But, on the other hand, 
is there any evidence that the prophet felt that God was 
speaking to him apart altogether from the word spoken ? 
When God spake to a prophet, was the latter conscious of two 
things, namely, of the fact that God was speaking, and also 
of what He spake ? When the word of God came to him, 
did its being the word of God manifest itself to him in some 
distinctive manner, apart altogether from the contents ? Or 
rather, was not the feeling of the prophet in all probability 
something like our own, that double kind of feeling which 
we express by saying that any opinion we have is God's truth ? 



The question, you will see, is not whether God did originate 
thoughts in the prophet's mind which, without God's Spirit, 
he could never have reached, but as to the kind of feeling 
he had, when such thoughts arose in his mind. Was the 
divine excitation a thing quite unlike his other mental opera- 
tions, or so unlike that he knew it immediately as distinct 
from them ? Did his being influenced by God's Spirit give 
any particular hue to his feeling different from the feeling 
of the truth of the thought, and from the feeling that it was 
an important religious truth ? I should think there would be 
no third element in his feeling. 

The same question would arise as to the kind of pressure 
under which the prophet felt himself to be. Did the kind of 
feeling he had of impulse to speak differ from the feeling 
men still have of impulse to utter any pressing truth that 
lies upon them, such men as fervent, religious teachers, or 
lofty, earnest statesmen ? And when truth suddenly dawned 
upon the prophet's mind, which formerly he strove unsuccess- 
fully to reach by means of reflection, did the feeling he had 
at such a moment differ from the feeling men still have 
when, oftentimes in peculiarly spontaneous frames of mind, 
difficulties are broken up, and problems solved almost in- 
voluntarily, which before resisted all conscious and direct 
efforts of the mind ? 

On the one hand, certain things might lead us to infer 
( that the divinity of the word, apart from its meaning, made 
) itself distinctively felt. For even things which would, on 
ordinary principles, be considered opposed to God's will, were 
felt to be His direct injunctions. Such a case as the com- 
mand to offer up Isaac illustrates this. But we still see cases 
quite similar, where men do things contrary to ordinary law 
under the irresistible impression that they are doing God's 
will, and following His voice ; and nothing more can be 
inferred from such a case as this of Abraham, than that the 
revelation carried with it somehow the feeling that it was 



from God. Dr. M c Cosh says somewhere that the kind of 
conviction of truth, which God's revelation carried with it, 
must be considered similar to the kind of conviction our 
necessary beliefs carry with them. But it is more likely 
that the kind of conviction was that, or similar to that, 
which men have of moral or religious truths such as tho 
existence of God, and such as of His being reconciled to 
them, and hearing their prayer. For there are many things 
which show that, while the true prophet was immovably 
convinced of the truth and divineness of what he uttered, 
still the grounds of his conviction were peculiar to himself, 

nd could not be communicated, and were of such a kind 
at men might feel assured falsely, that is, might mistake 


' Being moved by the Spirit ' was not a thing so dis- 
tinctive but that it might be confused with one's own 
natural emotions. Probably it had no characteristics by 
which it could be distinguished from the natural activities 
of the mind itself. At least this may be said, that though 
the prophet who was really moved by the Spirit knew 
certainly that he was so, the prophet who was not so moved 
might imagine himself to be. Probably the case of the Spirit 
speaking in the prophet was similar to the case of the Spirit's 
influence in converting men. Though the true prophet was 
sure himself of being so, yet the grounds of his assurance, 
being subjective, could not be formulated so as to prevent 
a man deceiving himself, and being a sincere false prophet, 
just as a man may now deceive himself as to his spiritual 
condition before God. And if a man now interrogates him- 
self regarding his conversion, though he will ascribe it to 
God, he will not be able to put his finger on any part of 
the mental process which differs from the natural processes 
of his mind. 

It is quite incredible that the numerous class of prophets 
who were undoubtedly false were all intentionally so. Con- 


sequently, while a man who was a true prophet may have had, 
from some quarter or other, assurance to himself assurance 
of such a kind that no higher could be imagined of being 
thus true, yet there was no such immediate proof to a false 
prophet of his not being true. 

Hence the prophets, in the matter of assurance, do not 
seem to have stood on more fortunate ground than ourselves. 
The way they were assured was the same way in which we 
are. The truth carried its own assurance with it. The divine 
action does not seem anywhere separable from the truth. It 
is not perceived as distinct in any sphere. We affirm its 
presence, but we can nowhere lay hold of it as a separate 
thread of the complex. In other words, we may assert these 
two things : (1) Eevelation is part of the religious relation 
of God to His Church ; it was in all cases part of the life 
of the individual, a momentum in the spiritual relations of 
him and God. When God revealed a new truth in the Old 
Testament, the process did not differ in its nature from that 
which happens now, when He reveals to any mind the truths 
in Scripture. Both are efforts and works of the Holy Spirit ; 
but the Spirit cannot be dissociated from the word, nor His 
influence felt apart from the word. And (2) the assurance 
conveyed in both cases was probably the same, an assurance 
made by the Spirit through the word of its truth. But the 
process can hardly be analysed further, and the pressure felt 
to speak could, no doubt, still be paralleled, it was the 
sense of duty. 



To be a prophet always implied one of whom the person 
so named was the prophet, one ruling and guiding from 
without. Now the prophetic state, being certainly not 
ordinary nor yet continuous, would, even though not due 
to any outward influence, in all probability present such 
distinctive marks that it could be easily made the subject 
of investigation. And it might seem that, being due to an 
external influence, this would make it even more distinctive, 
and consequently more easily inquired into and estimated. 
It is doubtful, however, if this last be true. For this 
outward influence being divine, might rather run the risk 
of removing the condition out of the region of investigation 
altogether. Perhaps, however, the influence exerted upon the 
prophets will be found not to add to the distinctiveness of 
the prophetic state by its being external, nor to diminish from 
it by its being divine. What we are going to inquire into 
is the state of the prophet's mind when receiving or per- 
ceiving the prophetic truths, not what it was that put his 
mind into that state, much less how that which put his 
mind into that state did so. 

Not only shall we be unable to trace how it acted, but 
perhaps even to trace its action at all, that is, there will be 
nothing in the prophetic state regarding which we must say, 
" This is an effect which only the Spirit of God could have pro- 
duced." We must content ourselves with a general statement 
of the connection between the Spirit and the prophetic state. 



We shall not be able to locate the Spirit's action, so as to say, 
for example, that His influence was exerted on the mind 
so that it was stimulated, and thus rose to higher reaches 
of truth. In that case the mental excitation would be the 
means whereby the truth was arrived at, and not conversely, 
the truth arrived at was the cause of the mental excitation. 
Neither shall we be able to say that this excitation is of a 
kind not elsewhere seen in the human mind, and produced by 
causes not elsewhere in operation. The prophetic condition, 
being one in which human subjects w r ere the phenomena, 
must be capable of being described ; and so must also the 
states antecedent to it, and the results which followed it. 

The two main names of the prophet were, as we have 
stated, ' seer ' and ' prophet.' The first describes the prophet 
on the side of his perceiving or receiving the truth, on his 
side towards God ; the other on the side of his uttering the 
truth, his side towards men. It is the side expressed by 
nth that I wish just now to investigate a little. Now, this 
word nm expresses two things, or it has two sides, one side, 
God's revealing of the truth ; the other, man's receiving of it. 
Now, man's receiving of the truth is a mental act or mental 
state. It is this which it is both lawful and necessary to 
inquire a little into. To the question, What was the prophetic 
state ? three answers have been returned. First, that this 
state did not differ from the natural state ; second, that it 
was a condition of complete ecstasy; and third, that it was 
one of comparative ecstasy, that is, of great elevation and 
excitation. In all probability, since there is such a variety 
of opinions, they all have some foundation. It may well be 
that the prophetic state runs through a series of grades, the 
lowest of which does not differ from the ordinary activity 
of the mind in thinking, and the highest is such a state of 
excitation and absorption that it is justly styled ecstatic. 

In ordinary thought, one is capable of bringing by an act 
of will both the operation of the mind, and the subject on 


which it is operating, under the eye of the mind by reflection. 
When the niind is considerably excited, both its operations 
and the subject on which it is working are less under the 
control of the will. And in the highest stage of excitation, 
the reins seem to slip from the hands of the will for a time 
completely, and the mind careers along a course of activity, 
directed either by innate tendencies, or by the laws of habitual 
association. This last state is what we mean by 'ecstasy.' 
The mind in such conditions is not unconscious of its opera- 
tions, but merely cannot control them ; just as a rider who 
has lost the reins knows what is going on, but cannot alter it. 
A man remembers his dreams. But memory of what is past 
seems to imply consciousness of it when it was present. Yet 
the dreamer had no power to alter or put an end to his 
dream; the mind acted, in dreaming, on ways instinctive or 
habitual. In like manner, in prophetic ecstasy or dreaming 
the prophet could not control his mind, but he remembered 
the contents of his vision or dream. What was lost in the 
highest state of excitation was not consciousness, but the 
power of reflection, the power or the desire to exercise the 
will. Thus the prophetic condition may be called a state of 
reception, if you look at the source whence the truth came 
to it, or a state of perception, if you look at the mind which 
reached the truth. It is in this last aspect only that we 
have at present to regard it. 

The prophetic condition was a state of hifjli mental 
activity, going through various grades of intensity, and of 
that kind of activity called "voituition. I must therefore 
draw your attention first to the various grades of the in- 
tensity of the mind's activity, as shown in the phenomena 
of the prophetic state ; and then to the kind of activity 
as shown in the contents of the prophetic visions and 
utterances. The Old Testament expressly defines the kind 
of mental operation carried on in the prophetic state, when 
it says, " If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord 


will make Myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak 
unto him in a dream." 1 It does not define through what 
grades of abstraction the mind may go, but it gives many 
examples of men in the prophetic state, from which we may 
make an induction of its conditions. The New Testament, 
on the other hand, does not define the kind of operation, 
though giving many illustrations of it, but expressly states 
what relation the will has to it. Now, in the main, Old 
Testament prophecy and New Testament prophecy are 
identical ; and it will be safest to refer to the statements of 
the New Testament on the question. 

In the New Testament we find among the prophets, 
Christ Himself, the apostles, a disciple named Agabus, and 
particularly the members of the Church at Corinth ; and we 
have one prophetic book, the Apocalypse. Christ predicted 
His own death, from all we can gather, plainly. But the 
prophecy of the end in Matt. 24 exactly resembles Old 
Testament prophecy. There is in it the same involution as 
we find in Joel, for instance, or in Isa. 40 1 ~ 11 . The near and 
the far are not separated ; the destruction of Jerusalem and 
the end of the world are both brought close together, just as 
in Isaiah the release from Babylon by Cyrus and the redemp- 
tion from sin by the Messiah the restoration to rest in 
Palestine and the final glorification of the Church are 
combined in one. Hence much doubt has been thrown on 
Christ's prophecy by New Testament critics, who allege that 
we do not possess it as it came from Him, but as it was 
taken up by the disciples, and as it has passed through the 
mould of apostolic thought. There is no ground for supposing 
that New Testament prophecy should differ from Old. The 
similarity to Old Testament prophecy, however, is very 
remarkable ; and as there is no reason to suppose it given 
to the Lord in vision, or the product of any mental excitation, 
we are led to infer that what is called ' the timelessness of 

1 Num. 12 6 . 


prophecy,' or what is called otherwise ' the perspective in 
prophecy/ the close juxtaposition of things distant from one 
another, when both were also distant from the time or place 
of the seer, is not due to the fact that prophecies were given 
in vision. 

The other examples of prophecy in the New Testament 
quite resemble those in the Old. Thus Agabus predicted a 
dearth, as did Elijah ; both, so far as appears, without any 
excitation. Agabus also used a symbolic action, taking Paul's 
girdle and binding him in token of his coming bondage, pre- 
cisely as Jeremiah used his girdle symbolically in making his 
predictions. And the New Testament prophetic book, the 
fitftXiov T?}? Trpo^Tjre/a? ravr^, resembles in all particulars 
Old Testament prophecy, being symbolical, tied to its time, 
using only the elements in the consciousness of the seer, 
namely, Jerusalem, the Church, Eoman heathendom, the perse- 
cutions and tribulations already undergone ; and the known 
stadia of the Church's prosperity, namely, the fall of heathen- 
dom, the millennial prosperity, and the coming of the Lord. 
There is much prophecy, but there are few predictions, in the 

Now, the manifest identity of Old and New Testa- 
ment prophecy making it 'safe for us to conclude from the 
one to the other, we find a passage in 1 Cor. 14 defining 
very particularly the mental condition of the prophet so far 
as regards his self-control ; although, as the passage con- 
templates the person in the prophetic state being in the 
company of others, some allowance may need to be made for 
this. The passage runs (vv. 29 ~ 33 ) : " Let the prophets speak 
two or three, and let the others judge. If any thing be 
revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his 
peace. For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may 
learn, and all may be comforted. And the spirits of the 
prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not a 
God of confusion, but of peace, as in all the churches of 


the saints." From this passage and from the whole chapter 
these things appear : That the prophetic gift was an element 
peculiar to Christianity, and extraordinary even in it ; that 
it was the effect of the Spirit; that the utterances were 
given by revelation, aTTOKaKv-fyis, i.e. spiritual intuition ; and 
that the gift, going often along with the gift of tongues, was, 
if not a more remarkable sign, yet a more useful one, inas- 
much as speaking with tongues needed an interpreter who 
might not be at hand, but prophesying was intelligible to all. 
Hence the one was a sign, and would convince the unbeliever ; 
the other was a revelation, an unfolding of truth, and edified 
the Church already believing. 

The laws given by the apostle for regulating the gift 
most concern us, and are these : Some few were to speak, 
and the others to judge ; that is, judge whether what was said 
was said in the spirit, to try the spirits. This capacity of 
judging the utterances of the prophets was common apparently 
to other prophets, and to others not prophets. Persons who 
could not themselves prophesy might judge the prophets. 

Then, second, when one was speaking, another who had 
some revelation made to him might suddenly stand up, and 
the former ought to give place. Two should not speak at 
once, lest confusion be introduced ; but the sudden fresh 
outbreak of enlightenment was more to be prized than the 
lengthy, tedious oration. Thus all might prophesy, one by 

Third, that this order was not one impossible to obey, was 
evident, for " the spirits of the prophets are subject to the 
prophets." This is the general principle. The spirits of the 
prophets spoken of here are not the gifts as spiritual, nor 
the manifestations of the Holy Spirit in various ways, thus 
seeming to be many spirits ; but Trvevpara Trpo^rjrwv, prophets' 
spirits, are the spirits or minds of the prophets under the 
apocalyptic influence, and these illuminated spirits under ex- 
citation are subject (vTrordcra-eTai) to the prophets. The will 


is not overborne. The prophets can command themselves, so 
far at least as to be silent, that is, not to begin speaking ; and 
so far as to become silent, to cease their prophetic utterance, 
and give way to another. There is no suspension of con- 
sciousness or reflection here, only elevation. The contents 
of the speech are not their own. Their power is simply 
regulative. It does not appear that the person who stood 
up, when the other was speaking, was forced to speak or 
unable to control himself. Certainly he felt a strong impulse 
to speak; but the apostle allowed him to speak, not from 
necessity, but because what he was about to say would be more 
direct from God, fresher and more immediately the product 
of the apocalypsis. Even the gift of tongues was thus far 
at least under the control of the speaker, if there le no 
interpreter, let him keep silence. 1 

From all this we may safely draw the following con- 
clusions : First, that much prophetic utterance was made 
without any excitation, both in the Old Testament and 
in the New ; that this utterance embraced not only the 
enunciation of general theocratic truths, but also of specific 
predictions ; that the form of the prophetic utterance did 
not depend on the amount of excitation ; and that what is 
most peculiar in it, its timelessness, did not depend on the 
method of intuition by which the truth was received. Second, 
that very often a certain amount of excitation accompanied 
the utterance, or at least the perception, of the prophetic truth. 
This can be paralleled by the higher activity of mind among 
ourselves in thought and feeling, especially in high religious 
or poetical thought. Third, that this excitation went through 
many degrees, and might reach finally to a waking trance. 
The lower stages of it perhaps were greatly parallel to our 
states of mental abstraction, when, the action of the mind 
being intense, the senses are less acute, and impressions from 
without are either fainter or less heeded, so that a certain 

1 1 Cor. 


unconsciousness of external surroundings ensues. In the 
higher stages the activity of the mind becomes so intense 
that it is not only insensible to influences from without, 
but loses reflective control over its own operations, though 
not the consciousness of them ; and these operations thus 
go on according to laws which are difficult to define. This 
is the condition called ' ecstasy.' This state reached such 
heights that, while the mind never lost self -consciousness, 
it became so abstracted from bodily and earthly relations 
that it doubted whether it had been, during its trance, in the 
body or out of the body, as was the case with Paul. But 
there seems nothing abnormal in all this. It is only an 
extreme illustration of the known law, that the mind, when 
intensely occupied with one thing, can neither attend spon- 
taneously nor be made to attend to another thing, whether 
the other thing be something outside of it, or its own 
operations within. Fourth, not only the waking trance, but 
also the sleeping state, could be made the means of revela- 
tion, which comprehended both the vision and the dream. 

Dreaming is the spontaneous action of the mind in sleep, 
according to the laws of association, the reflective control 
of the mind over itself being in general completely lost. 
When the mental excitation becomes so great that this 
control is regained, we awake. Often there is an alternation 
of waking and sleeping, the waking moments being exceed- 
ingly brief. The explanation of dreaming must involve the 
explanation of sleep, which is partly a question of physiology. 

According to recent opinions it is briefly this. The brain 
is the instrument of the mind. All exercise involves change. 
This change is waste. The muscles are wasted by exercise, 
and so are the nerves. To think is also to use the instrument 
for manifesting thought, the brain. To exercise it is to waste 
it. By much exercise it becomes wearied ; by excessive 
exercise it becomes exhausted. Its substance is consumed. 
The condition of waste is a certain element supplied by the 


blood. When this element is exhausted or not supplied, the 
condition of change is absent. There is no alteration in 
the substance of the brain. It is in a state of quiescence. 
This quiescence is sleep. The mind may not sleep, but 
without an instrument it does not manifest itself. Dreaming 
arises from imperfect quiescence of the brain. It is supposed 
to arise, not when the whole brain is imperfectly quiescent, 
but when some part of it is quiescent, and some part active. 
The mind has then only a partial instrument. Hence the 
imperfect manifestation of the laws of mind in dreaming. 

Dreams are usually the irregular continuation of trains 
of thought in the previous waking state which have not 
been completely broken off, because the dreamer has not 
gone completely to sleep ; or they are caused by disturbances 
reaching the mind through the senses. These, being imper- 
fectly perceived, give rise to irregular action of the mind, 
and issue in abnormal and sometimes monstrous combina- 
tions, owing to the associative faculty being quite free from 
the control of the will. But the main thing which I desire 
to establish is that the prophetic state is a condition of 
mental activity, and that this activity does not differ in its 
phenomena from the same kinds of mental activity in other 

Now, I may add a few illustrations to show that the 
prophetic state, though always one of great mental activity, 
was sometimes quite under the power of the reflection and 
the will, and sometimes was accompanied with great excita- 
tion and comparative loss of this power. It is certainly 
true that there were prophets in whom no excitement pre- 
vailed, who spoke always calmly and with clear conscious- 
ness and composure ; and their words are likewise the purest 
truths. And it is to be supposed that all the prophets 
sometimes spoke as well as perceived their prophetic truths 
in this unexalted state. The greatest prophet of the Old 
Testament received from Heaven communications in his 


ordinary waking condition, speaking with God face to face 
as a man speaketh with his friend. This perhaps refers to 
his method of perception through his outward senses, as in 
the mount. And as Moses received the divine word without 
perturbation, so he uttered it in all composure and serene 
calmness. In like manner the great Prophet of the New 
Testament the Prophet like unto Moses, who united in 
Himself the ideal elements of a prophet, and is to be taken 
as the type of the class always spoke calmly and with no 
excitement, enunciating His great principles with an unruffled 
dignity, and throwing His eye into the future with no tumult 
of spirit. Hence the very ideal of prophecy is to receive 
the divine communication unperturbed by the nearness of 
the divine, and to deliver it with a calm confidence in its 
truthfulness and its certainty to prevail. 

But perhaps such perfection could not be abidingly 
reached in an imperfect dispensation like that of the Old 
Testament. The Spirit's abode in the prophets was inter- 
mittent and irregular. " The Holy Ghost was not yet given, 
because Jesus was not yet glorified." x Only earnests of 
His fulness were received, strange, fearful, sudden, and 
violent. But this is evident, the worse prepared in general 
the prophet was, the less illuminated and subdued his sinful 
nature was, the stronger were the convulsions into which the 
Spirit threw him. Thus in Saul, a character not wholly 
bad, but with the elements of a noble nature in him, these 
never united into harmonious activity, but were always rent 
and kept asunder by some suspicion, or vice, or self-will, 
ending at times in complete madness. When the Spirit came 
on him, it raised the wildest tumult in his breast, warring 
with incongruous elements there ; and he was thrown down 
by the violence of the struggle, and lay all night on the 
ground and prophesied. In later prophets, such as Ezekiel 
and Daniei, we have to distinguish between the state of 

1 John 7 s9 . 


prophetic excitement itself, either during the perception of 
the vision or during its delivery, and the consequent effect 
the vision had on the prophet. Thus Daniel recounts how 
after a vision " he was left alone, and there remained no 
strength in him " ; l and how " he fainted, and was sick certain 
days ; and was astonished at the vision, and none understood 
it." 2 Here the fainting and sickness were not elements of 
the prophetic state, but consequences of the awful nature of 
the prophetic revelation. This sickness would be the result 
either of the reaction of the mind from excessive terror on 
the bodily system, or the consequence of that abnormal and 
disordered bodily condition into which the prophet passed in 
the state of extreme ecstasy. 

Again, we must be careful to distinguish between what 
really took place in the prophet's mind or body, and what 
were elements of the vision itself, and only seemed to take 
place. It is not uncommon for a man to dream that some- 
thing already dreamed was a dream, to have a dream within 
a dream. Whether such a thing implies a momentary state 
of wakefulness and reflection immediately overpowered again 
by sleep, and the half-begun process of thinking prolonged in 
the new state of sleep, may be difficult to say. The prophets 
seem, too, to have had visions within visions. We dream of 
some occurrence, and we are logical in our dreams ; for we 
dream that the effects follow from it that would have followed, 
had the occurrence really happened. And in a similar way 
the prophets saw great sights from above, and they saw 
their own natures faint before such awful revelations. Thus 
Ezekiel writes : " I arose, and went forth into the plain : and, 
behold, the glory of the Lord stood there, as the glory which 
I saw by the river of Chebar : and I fell on my face. Then 
the Spirit entered into me, and set me on my feet." 3 Both 
this falling down and setting up must, I think, be visionary. 
Again : " So the Spirit lifted me up, and took me away, and 
1 Dan. 10 s . 2 Dan. S 27 , cf. 7 15 - 28 . 3 Ezek. 3= 3 . 


I came to them of the captivity," etc. 1 In like manner 
Daniel says : " So he came near where I stood : and when he 
came near, I was afraid, and fell on my face. And as he 
was speaking with me, I was in deep sleep on my face toward 
the ground : but he touched me and set me upright." 2 

It is difficult in such cases to decide what elements of 
the narrative must have been seen only in the vision, and 
what elements really took place. These bodily effects may 
very easily have followed from the vision. But it is more 
probable, from other passages, that they were elements of the 
vision itself. Thus Ezekiel writes : " And he put forth the 
form of an hand, and took me by a lock of mine head ; and 
the Spirit lifted me up between the earth and the heaven, 
and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem, to the 
door of the inner gate." 3 Hosea was bidden marry an 
adulterous woman. Jeremiah was bidden hide his girdle by 
the Euphrates. Ezekiel was bidden lie three hundred and 
ninety days on one side and forty on the other, etc. Now 
these things must have been transacted in vision only. From 
all this, however, it is quite evident that the prophets of the 
Old Testament did not perceive prophetic truth at all times 
free of excitation. Only He in whom the Spirit dwelt in 
His fulness so perceived and so spake ; and to a great extent 
also His apostles, and Moses, the founder of the former dis- 
pensation. Excitement is the result of unpreparedness, of 
elements in the nature as yet unsubdued by the Spirit, of 
want of habitude, of intermission. And its presence was to 
be looked for in a preparatory dispensation. 

On the other hand, the opinion that the prophetic state 
was one of complete ecstasy cannot be sustained, if by 
complete ecstasy is meant a merely mechanical use of the 
prophet by the Spirit. Indeed, it is difficult to understand 
the meaning of a mechanical use of the mind. Another 
person can use your hand to strike. Could another use your 

1 Ezek. 3 14 . 2 Dan. 8 17 . 3 Ezek. 8 3 . 


mind to think ? At any rate, to dream is a mental operation 
of the dreamer ; to see a vision is a mental process of the 
seer ; to speak intelligently is both a mental and a physical 
operation of the speaker. To remember so as to be able to 
reproduce, in waking or discussive states, the contents of a 
dream or a vision, seems to imply the consciousness of the 
thing dreamed or seen at the time. And all this conduces 
to disprove any merely mechanical use of the prophet by the 
Spirit. Here are all the indications which we ever have of 
that use and operation of the mind which is ordinary and 
rational, it must be quite false, surely, to call it also 
mechanical. Indeed, the miraculous does not supersede, but 
employs, the existing. The supernatural usually consists in 
a certain usage of the natural. And that the human mind 
was rationally active to use an expression somewhat 
tautological in the prophetic state, appears not only from 
the products of the state when it was ended, and from the 
phenomena of the state while it continued, but particularly 
from certain preparatives that were in use to induce the 

These preparatives were of a kind auxiliary to intense 
mental activity. They tended to remove disturbances, to 
compose and concentrate the mind, and at the same time to 
withdraw it from too close relation with the outside world, 
and to give it a higher tone within. One of the most common 
of these preparatives was music. Thus Elisha, when asked by 
Jehoshaphat to give him some indications of the issue of his 
campaign against Moab and Edom, had recourse to music as 
a preliminary preparation : " And now bring me a minstrel. 
And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand 
of the Lord came upon him. And he said, Thus saith the 
Lord," etc. 3 And so in the well-known passage in the history 
of Saul. Samuel describes to him the band of young prophets 
who should meet him "coming down from the high place with 

1 2 King; 3 15 . 


a psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp, before them ; 
and they shall prophesy : and the Spirit of the Lord shall 
come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy, and shalt be turned 
into another man." 1 And in a remarkable passage in 
1 Chron. 25 1 Asaph and some of his followers are called 
' prophets upon harps,' and in v. 2 they are called ' seers.' 
The use of music could not be to destroy or disorganise the 
mind, but rather to calm it and elevate it into a region 
above that of ordinary feeling and life. 

A very curious fact has been pointed out, namely, that 
the prophets of the later time usually had their trances in 
the vicinity of rivers, the murmur of which acted like music 
and soothed the spirit ; as you remember the great Eoman 
patron of learning, in his excessive nervousness, found 
sleep only within a certain distance from falling waters. 
Ezekiel was by the river Chebar when he beheld the vision 
of the cherubim. 2 Daniel likewise had visions by the side 
of the great river, the river Hiddekel ; 3 and he also speaks of 
being by the river Ulai. 4 In complete accordance with all 
this, is the circumstance that prophetic visions were usually 
perceived in the darkness of night, not in sleep, for 
then they would be dreams, but in a waking condition, yet 
surrounded with darkness. There is less to distract in the 
night, the soul has greater power of self-abstraction, when 
the sights and sounds of the world that continually claim its 
attention move away and die down. Eliphaz saw his vision 
in the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men. 5 That 
splendid series of visions in Zech. 16, running through the 
history of the Church till its time of universal power, was 
seen in one night. Nathan received his reply to David's 
proposal to build an house to the Lord, in the night : " and it 
came to pass that night." 6 In like manner, Balaam waited 
till night till he could answer the king of Moab ; 7 and the 

1 1 Sara. 10 5 . 2 Exek. I 3 . 3 Dan. 10 4 . 4 Dan. 8 3 . 

B Job 4. c 2 Sain. 7. 7 Num. 22 s - 1!) . 


young Samuel first learned to know the voice of the Lord in 
the stillness of the night. 1 Here, also, may be mentioned all 
those passages in the Psalms, where spiritual instruction is 
referred to as coming in the night, as for instance : 

" I will bless the Lord, who hath given me counsel : 
Yea, my reins instruct me in the night seasons." 2 

And to corroborate all this, only one other thing need be 
referred to. It was said in Latin : aut insanit aut versus 
facit; and a similar idea is seen in Hebrew, where the same 
word meant both to prophesy and to be mad. When Elisha 
went to the camp and anointed Jehu the son of Nimshi 
king, his soldier comrades, on seeing the uncouth visitor 
depart, at once asked Jehu, " Whence came this mad fellow 
to thee ? " This word Wtrp was still retained even in the 
days of Jeremiah, 3 as a synonym for K23np. 

These things, therefore, have been conclusively shown : 
First, that the prophetic state was a condition of real mental 
activity, and nothing mechanical or merely seeming. Second, 
thaVthis activity went through various grades of intensity, 
similar to, or rather identical with, what we perceive in all 
ages among men. Third, this identity of operation must be 
inferred from identity of phenomena. And, fourth, this does 
not supersede the divine, but it may prevent us defirnflg in 
what the divine consisted, as for example calling it suggestion 
and such like. And it may also prevent us locating the 
action of the divine, so as to name it, for instance, dynamical, 
because we consider it an influence exerted on the mind so 
as to stimulate it to think, rather than materials of thought 
suggested to it. If the operations of the mind during 
the prophetic state show that the mind was really operat- 
ing mentally, and was not influenced mechanically, the 
immediately antecedent operations of the mind and the 
connection between them and the prophetic state may equally 

1 1 Sam. 3. 2 Pa. 16 7 . 3 Jer. 29 26 . 



debar us from saying that the influence brought to bear was 
dynamical. There was a connection between the Spirit of 
God and the mind of the prophet, but the connection was 
miraculous, and so evades definition. What is capable of 
definition only is the condition of the prophet. 

And, so far as we can see, all the mental operations of the 
prophet antecedent to the prophetic state, and during it and 
after it, are as if no influence of the Spirit had been exerted 
on him. There is no doubt that the prophetic state is called, 
e.g., in the Apocalypse, being in the Spirit, eV Trvev^an ; 
though that rather seems to refer to the human spirit, 
indicating a predominance of the jrvevpa over the sense- 
spheres of the activity; and it is also said that the hand 
of the Lord was upon the prophets, and His Spirit fell on 
them, and so on, modes of expression used to define the 
prophetic or ecstatic state. But it is doubtful how far we 
are entitled to argue rigidly on such language, so as to infer 
that the ecstatic state was produced by the Spirit, and not 
rather that the Spirit used this state for His purposes. For 
we found that the prophets consciously used means to induce 
the state, that it might then be the vehicle for conveying 
from the Spirit the prophetic word. 

This question has a very interesting history in the 
Church. Various opinions have been expressed regarding it 
at various times. The true state of the question should 
always, in discussing it, be held before the mind, lest we 
should seem, in speaking of it, to be calling in question things 
about which there is no question. The question is not one 
concerning the truths which the prophets uttered, whether 
these be divine truths or no, or whether they were not rather 
reached through conditions of the human mind, peculiar no 
doubt, but still human, and observable more or less among 
all the nations of antiquity, and even still observable to some 
extent in modern times. That is not the question. The 
truth reached by the prophet is the truth then taught him 


by the Spirit, as they always say, " Thus saith the Lord." 
The question is as to that condition of the human mind in 
which it reached the truth, or in which it was, when receiv- 
ing the truth ; how far it is a condition of mind definable ; 
how far it may resemble other conditions of mind with which 
in the history of mankind we are more or less familiar, 
not, as I have said, whether the Spirit of revelation was 
there present at all, but, being present, with what peculiar 
states of the human mind He allied Himself, or employed so 
as to effect a communication between Himself and mankind, 
It has been already shown that prophecy was a popular 
institution, that it fed itself out of the people as a whole, and 
that it used for its purposes the religious methods, the 
elements of the religious consciousness, and the forms of that 
consciousness, then prevailing. It did not. however, leave 
them in their former crude and unenlightened condition, but 
purified them from what was superstitious in them, and from 
what had a tendency to impurity. It used the methods and 
forms then existing for its own high purposes. 

Now, no doubt, the vision or partial ecstasy or elevated 
condition of the phantasy, or intuitive faculty, was such a 
form, common in those early times. It was a thing congenial 
to the genius of the Oriental people among whom revelation 
was then being manifested. It was a form suitable to that 
early age. And it is a happy thing for us that it was ; for 
thus the Scriptures have been given to us, not in cold 
abstract formulas fitted only to move philosophic minds, but 
in concrete forms of human feeling and life, full of human 
circumstances, and resplendent with the hues thrown over 
them by the emotional nature of mankind. And it was a 
form not only natural to that people of intense feeling on all 
occasions, but especially natural when truth was new, when 
great conceptions as to the relations of God and man, and as 
to man's duty in lofty moments of personal responsibility or 
national trial, were for the first time breaking in upon the 


human mind. All these circumstances and considerations 
make it probable that much excitement, not always, of course, 
of the same grade, but of many grades, will accompany the 
revelation to the mind of such truths. And it is to be pre- 
sumed that, as the gift of prophecy became more regular, and 
acquired more and more the stable character of an institution 
among the people, such accompaniments of revelation in the 
mind would gradually disappear. And the same effect would 
follow from the gradual accumulation of religious truths. 
These were no longer altogether new. Men's minds were 
familiar with them. As fundamental verities, they had 
entered into the general consciousness of the nation. What 
was new was generally only the application of them to the 
particular crisis of the individual's life or the nation's history. 
But this was always new. And no prophetic truth uttered 
by any prophet has ever attained to the rank of a philosophic 
maxim, or a cold deduction from prior truths. The prophet 
never comes before men inferring. The truth he utters 
is always a novelty to him to such an extent that he feels it 
to be an immediate communication from God. 

Now, these things being premised, we are free to look at 
the question of the state of the prophet's mind as a psycho- 
logical question regarding a state in which human minds 
may be. We shall therefore refer briefly to the history of 
this question. 

1. The opinion expressed by Philo on the subject of the 
prophetic ecstasy agrees more with Platonic ideas on that 
subject than with the Old Testament. According to him, the 
prophet is the interpreter of God, who makes him inwardly 
perceive what he is to speak. This divine inspiration is 
received by the prophet in a state of ekstasis in which his 
self-consciousness is entirely in abeyance, the human 1/01)9 
has departed to give place to the divine Spirit or Trvev^a ; 
for, as Philo expresses it, if the divine light is to arise, the 
human mind must sink. Thus the man is no more himself ; 


he is possessed. The human Ego sinks and loses itself 
altogether in the divine. Philo adds that this capacity 
which all men possess is grounded on the relation of the 
human to the divine, and thus any one may be a prophet. 

This view of Philo, or at least a view akin to it, was 
adopted in the early Christian Church. The early apologists 
use various figures to express their idea of what the 
prophetic inspiration was like. The divine Spirit that moved 
the prophets used them as a flute-player does his flute, 
they were wholly passive, even inanimate, and had only to 
subject themselves to the Spirit, which, as a divine plectrum, 
struck them like a harp or lute, and thus revealed to men 
divine sounds. 

2. This may be supposed to have been the prevailing 
view, so far as we find expression given to any view, down to 
the time of Tertullian and the Montanists. The extrava- 
gances of this sect and their prophetic manifestations caused 
a revulsion in the mind of the Church, and a return to a 
sounder view, although perhaps this revulsion, as was natural, 
became in some cases excessive in another direction. The 
Church Fathers of that time declared all convulsions which 
repressed the rational consciousness unworthy of true prophecy, 
and only suitable to the manticism produced by demoniacal 
powers. Origen, for instance, maintains that during the in- 
fluence of the Holy Spirit experienced by the prophet, the will 
and the judgment remain in their normal activity, and that the 
removal of every obscuration of the understanding is a token 
that a better spirit is animating the soul. Jerome especially 
insists that the unconscious ecstasy is inconsistent with the 
saying of St. Paul, that the spirits of the prophets are subject 
to the prophets. Frail human nature, he remarks, could not 
endure an uninterrupted state of ecstasy. And in this respect 
we discern the essential difference between the prophets and 
Christ, in whom the Spirit abode permanently. 

3. This sound and reasonable view continued to prevail 


in the Church, particularly in the Protestant Church, till a 
new interest was awakened in the subject of prophecy by the 
fresh investigations into Old Testament questions in the 
beginning of this century. Amidst various conflicting 
opinions, Hengstenberg, in the first edition of his Christology, 
reverted to the early position of the Church, that the pro- 
phetic state was one of complete ecstasy. The intelligent 
consciousness retreated, and the will-power, being sup- 
pressed by a powerful operation of the divine Spirit, was 
reduced to a state of passivity. The prophets were then, 
however, exalted to a higher region, because not only the 
intelligent consciousness but the lower psychical life retreated ; 
and they were thus fitted to receive, like an unsullied 
mirror, impressions of divine truth. The lively reclamations 
directed from all sides of the Church against this revival by 
Hengstenberg of the extreme view that obtained in the early 
Church, induced that theologian to recede from the position he 
had taken up ; and in the second edition of his Cliristology he 
returns, in all important particulars, to the view prevalent 
before his time, although he still continued to emphasise more 
than had been formerly done the elevation or comparative 
ecstasy which the prophets in many cases experienced. In 
this respect the exaggeration of his former view produced 
a beneficial result, and recalled men's minds to facts in the 
history of prophecy, particularly in its early condition, which 
were liable to be forgotten. There is no doubt that, in the 
earlier forms of prophecy, this ecstatic condition was so much 
one of the constant elements of it, that it gave name both to 
the person, namely, seer, and to the result, namely, vision, 
names which continued to be applied long after this ecstatic 
condition had ceased to accompany the exercise of the pro- 
phetic faculty. 

In later times, as prophecy declined, there seems to have 
been a revival of the vision, as in the case of Ezekiel, 
Zechariah, and Daniel. There is no good ground for supposing 


that their visions were not actual experiences, but only 
literary imitations of a more ancient method. It is quite 
possible that there may be some instances of this, particu- 
larly when prophecy, from being the exercise of the gift 
of public speech, had become in some measure a literary 
occupation, or an imitation of ancient forms. But this 
will not account for the new outburst of the vision, 
the explanation of which is to be sought for, partly in the 
idiosyncrasies of the individual prophets, partly in the more 
agitating circumstances of the times in which they lived, and 
partly, perhaps, in the increasing rarity of the prophetic gift 
in the declining condition and amidst the expiring energies 
of the nation. All these things conspired to throw prophecy 
back into that primitive and more extraordinary condition in 
which we observe it in the early ages of the theocracy. 

Now, in the prophetic state the condition of the 
prophet's mind was plainly one of activity. How, then, 
did the mind act when in that state ? This can only be 
ascertained from an examination of the expressions used 
by the prophets to describe the state, or at least to 
describe what it seemed to them they were doing mentally, 
when in that state. It will be best, therefore, to begin 
with the extreme illustration of the prophetic state, 
namely, the dream. Dreams were not common among the 
prophets. The dream, as a state of revelation, was chiefly 
witnessed outside the people of Israel. Pharaoh dreamed ; 
his butler and his baker dreamed. So did Nebuchadnezzar 
and Pilate's wife. When the dream appeared within Israel, 
it was chiefly in the case of those who were not prophets. 
Thus Jacob dreamed on his way to Paddan-aram. Joseph 
dreamed ; and among the prophets Daniel also dreamed. 
But Daniel is not placed among the prophets in the Old 
Testament. He was a courtier in a heathen palace, and the 
sphere of his activity was Babylon. Prophecy in his time 
took quite a new turn. It looked out from heathenism in 


upon Israel: hitherto it had looked out of Israel upon 
heathenism. The developments of heathenism form the 
subject of Daniel : those of Israel, the subject of the other 

Now, we are all familiar with dreaming. We know 
what that kind of mental activity is which we so name. 
It is a kind of perception. We do not so much think as 
see. Indeed, it may be questioned if there is any thought 
without the feeling of perception. Most men think in 
images derived from sight. But men born blind think in 
images derived from touch. We think in words to such a 
degree that many people cannot think without thinking 
aloud. A train of mathematical reasoning might be carried 
on in a dream ; but, no doubt, the figures would be quite 
as much present to the mind of the dreamer as if his eyes 
were open. And such was the prophetic condition. The 
prophets who dreamt saw. 

The next lower stage of the prophetic state was the 
vision, which in early times was the ordinary prophetic 
condition ; and, no doubt, the same principles apply to it. 
It probably differed from the dream only in degree. The 
kind of mental activity was the same. And whatever other 
degrees of the state there were, they were all conditions of 
perception, of intuition. We cannot enter into any discussion 
of the nature of this mental condition in itself. It is suffi- 
cient for our purpose to identify it with what we are 
ourselves familiar with. And it would be equally out of 
place to inquire whether the Oriental mind be not one that 
naturally assumes this condition to a much greater degree 
than the more ratiocinative Western mind ; or whether the 
condition be not one especially usual in primitive states 
of society, and in the early conditions of humanity. These 
are all interesting questions relating to how far God before- 
hand made natural predispositions for a future intended 
supernatural purpose. But the immediately interesting 


question for us is the state itself, and what consequences 
it may carry as to the form of prophecy, and the principle 
of its interpretation. 

Now, the prophets always describe the state as seeing ; 
and the name ' seer ' became in early times the common 
appellation of the prophet. We must hold that the word 
was used with all the latitude with which we employ the 
word ' see.' It is quite false to restrict it to what we technic- 
ally call a ' vision.' The word is generic, and runs through 
all grades of visual perception. What the prophet saw 
the contents of his vision was called |ifn O r IWH or rwn. 
Occasionally another sense, that of hearing, seemed to them 
the avenue through which the revelation came, as in Isa. 50 4 - 5 : 
" He wakeneth mine ear to hear " ; " Jehovah hath opened 
mine ear." Hence also the frequent formula : ' Thus saith 
the Lord,' lit. ' Thus is the whisper of Jehovah.' This, 
however, is chiefly the case when the revelation comes as 
abstract formulas of truth, and embodies itself less in con- 
crete realisations. We even find the combination : " The 
words of Affios i _jrfiiu]j i ^he ji(> _s(m'." 

Two questions consequently arise : (1) whence came the 
materials that constituted the visions, or at least the basis of 
them ? and (2) in what way will this affect our interpreta- 
tion of the prophecies, as we now possess them ? 

To the first question we must answer that the ele- 
ments of the prophetic visions were drawn partly from 
the mind of the seer, partly from the circumstances about 
him, and partly from revelation from God. The mind of 
the seer seemed often to cj3njaimite_thfi form, the circum- 
stances the main contents, and the revelation some of the 
highest reaches ^Tlhe vision. In general, however, while all 
three are to be traced, we cannot separate them, or assign 
distinct elements to each. But both the form and the 
contents generally reflect at once the mental idiosyncrasies 
of the seer and his historical position ; and where we cannot 


trace this reflection, we may assume that it is present though 
undetected. Thus Pharaoh's dream had in it the most pro- 
minent features of the land of Egypt, the river, the reeds, 
cattle, corn, etc. So Nebuchadnezzar's dream of the colossal 
man seemed but the projection into a figure of his great day- 
dreams of a universal, homogeneous empire, with all the 
unity and articulations of the human body. Jacob's dream 
was, no doubt, suggested by his loneliness and his need of some 
helper, and by the stair-like sloping to heaven of the hilly 
land where he lay down to sleep. And so the elements of 
the visions of Ezekiel and Daniel were furnished by the 
wonderful symbolism of Babylonia and Persia. 

This being the general principle, I shall now refer to three 
or four cases as illustrating the kind of elements that might 
enter into the vision. First, then, Peter's vision l of the sheet 
filled with all manner of creatures, and the words he heard 
regarding their cleanness, suggesting to him the great moral 
truth of the equality in God's sight of all men, and His pur- 
pose to save all. The moral preparations for this vision, if 
any, are concealed. Peter may, ere this, have speculated on a 
wider purpose of God, and on the temporariness of the old 
dispensation, and on what might be involved in its passing 
away. And events going on about him may have raised many 
thoughts as to whereunto these things would grow. But if 
so, these thoughts remain unexpressed. The immediate con- 
nections of the vision are with antecedent physical states. The 
ordinary bodily conditions of hunger formed the direct pre- 
paration. God linked His revelation of the most vital 
truth of Christianity, in Peter's case, to the most element- 
ary craving of human nature. No doubt we can fancy 
how the mind, stimulated by the appetite, might easily 
bring within its sweep all the materials of food, things clean 
and uuclean, and speedily pass to asking why the eating 
of some should be prohibited and the eating of others per* 

1 Acts 10. 


mitted, and then be seized with the desire, if only it were law- 
ful, to enjoy any of them meantime. Thus a channel would 
be quite naturally cut for the influx of the higher truth 
implied in the symbolical meaning of this prohibition, and 
its parallel among men in Jews and Gentiles. The pheno- 
mena in the vision, the command, " Eise, Peter, kill and eat," 
and the negative answer, seem not unlike the faint reflex 
of the operations of a fierce and indiscriminate appetite, 
controlled in the previous waking state by considerations 
of law. 

This case is very illustrative of the kind of path by 
which the prophets might reach the visionary state, and 
the kind of elements that the vision would contain. We 
may feel warranted, therefore, to conclude that any bodily 
state or any mental emotion may lead on to the prophetic 
state, and give to it its main colour. But there was, in 
addition to all this, a real supernatural element in the 
vision, a revelation of a truth from God, to which mani- 
festly Peter had not attained in his waking state, a truth 
which, even if the mental process had gone on which I 
have supposed, he had previously rejected or failed to 
reach. To Peter's own mind there must have been, in 
this vision, something which convinced him that it was 
widely different from an ordinary dream or reverie. It 
forced itself in upon his mind that this vision was from 
God, and that, too, with a power which governed bis whole 
after life, except, perhaps, for a short time at Antioch ; 
though even his conduct there was not due to an alteration 
in his convictions, but to a fear which made him suppress 

I may cite as a second case one very different, Isaiah's 
inaugural vision, chap. 6. This vision is certainly a fairer 
type than the last, although it perhaps is, in its own 
way, as great an extreme. The elements it embodies are 
certain thoughts of God, particularly His holiness and 


sovereignty ; certain symbolical presentations of God in Israel, 
e.g. His dwelling -place in the temple ; certain moral condi- 
tions of Israel, namely, those of the time ; and, finally, the 
necessary result of the relations of a holy God and King to 
such moral conditions, the complete dissolution and exile of 
the people ; and yet again the inbreaking of another funda- 
mental theocratic truth, namely, the inviolability of the 
covenant relation of Jehovah to Israel, and the consequent 
indestructibility of Israel, in which remained a holy seed. 
It will not in the least alter our opinion of the meaning and 
influence of this vision, or crisis in the prophet's career, that 
we suppose the prominent thoughts of it to be thoughts and 
views long familiar to the prophet, often recurring to him, 
and, as he grew up to fuller powers and reflected more 
deeply on the times and their tendencies, gradually 
coming to affect him more strongly, and growing into 
steady convictions, that increased in the power with which 
they held and moved him, till at last they presented them- 
selves all at once in their full brilliancy and connection, 
and in a way so overpowering that the prophet was unable 
longer to rest in silence, but must go forth and proclaim 
them among his people. 

Most probably, this was just the process that led to 
the vision, so far as it took place on a natural platform. 
For were these things as Isaiah saw them? Was his 
vision of God true ? Was his view of the tendencies and 
issues of the nation correct ? If they were, surely they 
were not now seen and observed for the first time. 
Certainly Isaiah had often thought of God so before. No 
doubt also the tendencies of the society of his time were 
patent on the face of it, and had often appeared to him in 
the same light. But now, under some more than natural 
influence, all these truths, unconnected in his mind and 
strewn about loosely, took a shape, and a clearness, and a 
connection, and assumed a power over him, which he could 


not withstand. But the pathway which led into the vision, 
and the contents of the vision itself, and the effects upon the 
prophet's activity of what he saw, may to some extent be 
made matter of observation. It is evident that the naked 
religious principles of the vision were given to the prophet 
already in the theocratic constitution, that the clothing of 
them was given either in the theocratic institutions, or in 
the state of society ; and that the new revelation was a com- 
bination of elements in that already possessed, namely, the 
necessary dissolution of the present theocracy, and its recon- 
struction on a new and wider basis. 

A third and rather instructive example may be found 
in the prophecy in Isa. 2 concerning the mountain of the 
Lord in the last days. That prophecy itself is an example 
of the imaginative faculty in the prophet. He has con- 
structed a new condition of things. The mountain of the 
Lord is seen by him established on the top of the mountains, 
and exalted above the hills; and all nations are flowing to 
it. In his vision this new state of things presented itself to 
him. But, further, it is certain that Isaiah is not the original 
author of the prophecy. It is common to him and Micah. 
Its position in Micah may be original, though it is not un- 
natural to suppose that he too has drawn it from some other 
quarter. And yet, though not original to Isaiah, he intro- 
duces it, and what follows in connection with it, thus : " The 
word which Isaiah saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem." 
Thus these two additional principles may be assumed. Truth 
given to the mind of the prophet in quotations from his 
predecessors may lead the way to his visions, and form an 
element in them. And in the prophetic state the mind not 
only exercises its presentative or reproductive power, but 
also its constructive or creative power. 

Once more, a very common preparation for the prophetic 
state was prayer. Indeed, it seems quite probable that in 
very many, perhaps in most cases, the prophetic abstrac- 


tion did not rise higher than it did, or does, in very earnest 
prayer. It is remarkable that the word n:y is used to 
express both the prophetic enlightenment and the answer to 
prayer. In the Psalms, moreover, we frequently find the sup- 
pliant passing suddenly over from a condition of despondent 
but earnest petitioning to one of enlightenment and hope : 
" Now know I that Jehovah saveth His anointed." l Almost 
all the Psalms that begin with petitions end with the ex- 
pression of assurance, the suppliant being answered even 
while speaking. And only to mention a single case among 
the prophets, that great prophecy of the seventy weeks in 
Dan. 9 was given in answer to such prayer : " I set my face 
unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications. 
. . . And while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel 
touched me," and so on. This illustrates a truth which is, 
though very plain, very needful to be pondered, namely, the 
ethical Telation of the prophets to God. 

No doubt the all-pervasive Spirit of God can press any 
instrument into His service, making to utter words of pro- 
phecy a character only half good like Saul, or one wholly 
covetous like Balaam, or one completely envious and cruel like 
Caiaphas. Still, these extreme cases are but examples of 
what God may accomplish, not examples of His usual method. 
It is the teaching of the Old Testament as well as of the 
New, of Isaiah's vision and Peter's Epistle " that holy men 
spake from God, moved by the Holy Ghost." Perhaps from 
all this it may be inferred that the prophets exhibited every 
kind of mental activity that men usually exhibit, and that 
the same things contributed to their activity that usually 
contribute to mental activity among men, and that their 
mental activity produced results similar to those still pro- 
duced, so that, while we name the prophecies which they 
uttered divine, we must also call them perfectly human. 

Now, if we look for a moment at the second question, 

1 Ps. 20". 


namely, what form the prophecies will assume in such circum- 
stances, we shall find it necessary to make some such definition 
of the prophecies as this : They will be truth given in terms 
of the Old Testament dispensation, and in a form chiefly 
figurative. The figurative element will arise from the method 
of receiving them, namely, perception, seeing. The terms in 
which they are given will arise from the circumstances of the 

Thus the permanent truths will be those embodied in 
permanent Old Testament institutions and general theocratic 
principles ; the permanent clothing will also be derived from 
these institutions. The advancing and altering truths will 
be those embodied in the progressive history and varying 
conditions of the people, and the many-coloured dress will be 
derived from this changeful history. Of course, also, permanent 
truths may be presented in the many-coloured garb woven by 
history. Added to all this, the prophet's own imaginative 
mind will often present the truth in a dress the elements of 
which may be borrowed from institution or history, but which 
itself is altogether the work of the poet's fancy. Thus, to 
draw together these remarks, there is in prophecy, first, a 
poetical element ; second, and more largely, a figurative element, 
the prophetic truth being usually presented in a concrete shape ; 
third, the elements out of which this concrete is composed are 
the theocratic institutions and the theocratic history in its 
successive stages, so that the figurative varies very largely in 
different prophetic epochs. 



THE word ' prophet ' (^^J) certainly, according to its usage, and 
most probably also, as we have seen, according to its derivation, 
suggests the source of the prophetic communication, a prophet 
is one who speaks from God. This is what distinguishes a 
true from a false prophet. The one speaks from God ; the 
other speaks out of his own heart. More explicitly still, the 
prophet is one who speaks by the Spirit of God. In the Old 
Testament a prophet is named ' a man of the spirit ' ; and in 
the New, " Prophets are men who speak from God, moved by 
the Holy Ghost." The differentia of Hebrew prophecy is 
this : that Jehovah by His Spirit spoke immediately to the 
mind of the prophet without the intervention of any other 
means. This distinguishes it from heathen prophesying or 
divination, which sought to reach the divine will or meaning 
through external appliances, such as lots, arrows, rods, etc. 
Undoubtedly there were persons among the Canaanitish 
nations called ' prophets/ just as in Israel. These certainly 
had this in common with the Hebrew prophets, that they 
were, or thought themselves to be, prophets of deities. My 
impression is that the resemblance between them ends there, 
and that there was nothing in common between their methods 
and objects and those of Israel's prophets. 

Hebrew prophecy is so distinctively the effect of the 
Spirit, that this general manifestation, in its various kinds, 
is named as embracing the whole outcome of the Spirit's 
influence in the New Dispensation. 



"And it shall be in the last days, saith God, 
I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh : 
And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, 
And your old men shall dream dreams, 
And your young men shall see visions." 1 

This method of inspiration is the chief of the 'divers 
manners ' in which God aforetime spake unto the fathers. 
Of course, it was not the only way. There are in the 
Old Testament various kinds of supernatural revelation, and, 
like all other things in the Old Testament, they are historical 
and successive ; and though, perhaps, like the epochs in 
creation, they do not terminate abruptly, but slide impercept- 
ibly into one another, and sometimes, when we are quite 
in another epoch, we are surprised by the remains of a former 
one, or meet unexpectedly the beginnings of one about to 
ensue ; yet the periods themselves, if not their extremities, are 
sufficiently well marked to be recognised as distinct. 

Perhaps these periods are no more than three : the first 
reaching to the Fall ; the second from the Fall to Moses ; and 
the third from Moses to Christ. As to the last two there need 
not be much dispute, though there may be some as to the first. 
Taking them backwards, we find that the period from Moses to 
Christ is distinguished as the period of revelation by means 
of inward Prophetic Inspiration, during which God spake in 
men by means of His Spirit. The second period, from Moses 
back to Adam, is the period of revelation by means of Outward 
Manifestations and Symbols and Theophanies, during which 
God spake to men through their senses, in physical phenomena, 
as the burning bush, the cloudy pillar, or in sensuous forms, 
as men, angels, etc. As to the first, the period preceding the 
Fall, very little is said or known about it. But from the 
indications in Gen. 2 it must have been a period of super- 
natural revelation as much as any that followed it, and, 

1 Joel 3 1 , Acts 2 17 . 


indeed, more directly than either of them. It seems to have 
possessed the characteristics of both the second and the third. 
It was outward, like the second : " And Jehovah God took the 
man, and put him in the garden of Eden to dress it and to 
keep it; and Jehovah God commanded the man, saying, Of every 
tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat ; and Jehovah God 
brought the beasts to Adam to see what he would call them." 
Plainly enough, the Bible regards all these as real transactions 
done outwardly, no less outwardly and in no other way than 
the manifestations of God after the Fall, when the man 
and his wife heard the voice of Jehovah God walking in 
the garden, and they hid themselves from the presence of 
Jehovah God among the trees of the garden. And besides 
being outward, as in the second period, it was a real mani- 
festation of God Himself, though not by His Spirit, as in 
the third period. 

The very obscurest indications of what took place in this 
period are of extreme importance, both in regard to the Scrip- 
ture doctrine of the supernatural, and in regard to a kind of 
speculation not strictly scriptural. If, as seems to be implied, 
this intercourse of God with man in the garden was sensuous, 
and thus what we call supernatural, this shows that the intro- 
duction of the supernatural was not caused by sin, but that 
God intended to hold intercourse with His spiritual creature, 
man, in other ways than those which we commonly call 
natural; that He meant to communicate with him otherwise 
than through nature and reason, separately or acting on one 
another. Thus sin was not the occasion of the introduction 
of God's supernatural teaching of man, though it may have 
modified it, and perhaps greatly extended its necessity. 

On the other hand, if we had any certainty as to the form 
in which God appeared to Adam in Paradise, this might be of 
use in carrying on some speculations in a region into which 
Scripture does not enter. In the second period the Theo- 
phanies were very frequently in human form. It has been 


generally held that God who appeared to the fathers was the 
Son, who is the revealed God, according to His own declara- 
tion : " No man has seen God at any time ; the only-begotten 
Son has declared Him." According to the same way of inter- 
preting the Old Testament, current among the apostles, John 
says of the 6th chapter of Isaiah : " These things said Isaiah, 
because he saw His glory ; and he spake of Him." 1 It has 
also been generally held that these appearances of God in 
human form were premonitions of the incarnation, a brief 
tabernacling of God in the form of man, to raise in men's 
hearts the thought of such a thing, and awaken in them the 
longing for it ; and to cause them to have some reasonable 
ground for hoping for it, seeing that form was one which God 
had taken, and was thus not incapable of taking ; a form 
which He took, when he brought Himself most near to man, 
and which, therefore, He might be expected to take, when 
He came to dwell altogether among them. 

Now, if this kind of inference be just, and if there were 
good ground for believing that God appeared to Adam even 
before the Fall in the form of man, there would be some 
reason to conclude that an Incarnation would have come 
about, even apart from the fact of sin. Such a speculation 
as this, though warmly pursued by many theologians abroad 
and among the Schoolmen, and though of extreme interest, 
does not strictly come before us here. It is not a Biblical 
doctrine. Certainly not directly ; and it is to be doubted 
if the things in Scripture which are employed as a basis 
on which to raise it, can be justly so used. It is rather the 
product of that Determinism in theological thinking, accord- 
ing to which whatever has come about must have happened. 
This kind of principle, according to which God develops Him- 
self by an inward necessity, is certainly not a Biblical prin- 
ciple, least of all an Old Testament principle. There all 
God's actions appear as the result of the most perfect, even 

1 John 12 41 . 


sometimes almost arbitrary, freedom of will. The other may 
be a legitimate method of thinking, and to many minds even 
necessary. And while no one ought to be denied the privilege, 
or the right, if you choose, of indulging it, I think it is fair 
to remark, first, that it is not the Biblical method, which pro- 
ceeds upon the assumption that God does all things freely; 
secondly, that it is an illegitimate use of the other method, if 
it refuses place to the Biblical method as equally well based 
with itself on a true idea of God, and practically the only 
true method ; and, thirdly, that it is especially an illegitimate 
use of the method, if it be applied only to some things, such 
as the Incarnation. It is a method of conceiving things, and 
all things must be embraced within it. To apply it only to 
some things is an offence against itself as a method of con- 
ception, and brings it into collision with the other method, 
and speedily introduces complete confusion. 

But to return to what is Biblical. The three periods of 
supernatural revelation are thus distinguished : Before the 
Tall, it was an outward, personal, sensible intercourse of man 
with God. After the Fall till Moses, it was a life with a 
symbolic God, represented by the cherubim at Eden's gate 
and the flaming sword, by the angel of the Lord, by the 
angels of God, in many outward symbols of a present, help- 
ful God, but always through some medium, no longer per- 
sonally God. 1 From Moses to Christ, though the outward 
sensuous symbols did not quite cease, for example, the 
Shekinah and smoke in the tabernacle, the Angel of the 
Covenant in the wilderness, the Captain of the Lord's host 
to Joshua, the Angel to David at the threshing-floor of 
Araunah the Jebusite, and much more, yet prevailingly, at 
any rate from Samuel downwards, the supernatural revelation 
was a revelation in the hearts of the foremost thinkers of the 
people, or, as we call it, prophetic inspiration, without the aid 

1 Of course, this statement must be modified, if \ve assume the Angel of the 
Lord to have been not a created angel, but God Himself in human form. 


of external sensuous symbols of God and His presence, except 
so far as these were permanently given to the prophet in the 
institutions and history of his people. And as the Old 
Testament theology is a mere torso limbs without a head 
apart from the New, we cannot help observing how the 
final revelation (though Scripture speaks of our hoping for 
a fifth, when " we shall see Him as He is "), the fourth 
stage, that of Christianity, embodies and perfects all the 
others. Like the first, it is God God with us, as with 
Adam in the garden under the fresh-created heavens; like 
the second, it is the Angel of Jehovah and the Covenant, a 
Theophany, God in human form, not now premonitory and 
transitory, melting away under the scrutiny of some eager 
saintly eye, but permanent, speaking with a human voice, 
and saying with it even in His resurrection state, " Handle 
Me, and see ; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see 
Me have " ; l and, like the third, it is also the fulness of the 
Spirit's revelation, as He said of Himself, " The Spirit of the 
Lord is upon Me," and as " John bare record, saying, I saw 
the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode 
upon Him." 2 Hence that which was spoken by Joel came to 
pass through Him: "I will pour out My Spirit upon all 

Thus by a rather slow process we have reached that 
method of revelation called prophecy. Now the most diver- 
gent views have been formed of this whole phenomenon of 
Hebrew prophecy. Doubtless, equally divergent views have 
been formed of the whole Jewish economy, but perhaps 
prophecy is a field where the battle over the meaning of 
Jewish institutions, or, what is really the same, Christian 
institutions, may be better fought out than anywhere else, 
because the field is narrower, and because the essential 
peculiarities of the system come out so prominently, its very 
centre rather than its wings being exposed. The question 
1 Luke 24" u . a John I 32 . 


is shortly : The phenomena of Hebrew prophecy being what 
we have seen, what judgment shall we pass upon it ? How 
shall we consider it to be related to God ? Is prophecy a 
natural or a supernatural phenomenon ? Now, this whole 
question is one of evidence. What are the phenomena of 
Hebrew prophecy ? and can they be explained naturally ? 
For all presuppositions, which would exclude anything 
supernatural, are really of no weight. They may all be 
reduced to some such propositions as these three : God 
cannot interfere with the system of things called nature; 
or, that system of things cannot be interfered with ; or, 
God will not interfere with it, and it need not be inter- 
fered with. Either God is such that He cannot perform 
a miracle ; or nature is such that a miracle cannot be 
performed ; or both are such that there is no need of per- 
forming a miracle, all the ends that God designs being attain- 
able without it. 

Now, to make any of these affirmations would surely be 
very arrogant. To say that God cannot work a miracle, is to 
say that He cannot do anything additional to what He has 
done in making the existing system of things, or to what He 
is doing in upholding it, and that He has no further powers 
either of willing, or of acting if He willed, that He is, in 
fact, used up in the present system of things. If the 
universe or nature be an organised system which is finite, it 
is evident that, while it may be competent to produce much, 
there may be things \\hioh it is not competent to produce. 
One can surely conceive a different system than the one that 
is, a system other than the present. It is Finite ; God is 
Infinite. God, therefore, is not exhausted by it, unless one 
holds that the Infinite must produce just this Finite. But 
that is to give up theism. Can one say of any Finite, that 
it is just what the Infinite must have to be satisfied over 
against ? If not, then one can conceive God adding to the 
existing world of things, introducing into it something He 


has not already put into it. At any rate, even on the most 
approved principles of Determinism, one can only say that 
that which is must have been. The Infinite must produce 
over against Himself a Finite, and He must produce just 
the Finite which He has produced ; but no wise man would 
say before he examines what this Finite is, whether those 
occurrences named miraculous be not part of it, or accom- 
paniments of it. 

But, as I have said, what concerns us to inquire into is 
really the manifestation itself called prophecy, and then, on 
this evidence, to form some estimate of it. These things 
then may be considered established : 

1. Certain of the people of Israel were conscious of an 
influence upon themselves ; they experienced certain states of 
mind and body ; they received an impulse to speak or act. 
There was a certain class of men among them called prophets, 
and this fact points to something in these men distinct from 
the mass of the people. It is evident also that these men 
were conscious of the states of mind I have referred to, 
which were not habitual, but intermittent. They were con- 
scious of possessing religious truth of a higher kind than 
the mass of their countrymen possessed, and of a sudden 
irresistible impulse to utter these truths publicly. All these 
phenomena are notorious. 

2. It is also very certain that all the extraordinary 
phenomena of their life, the excitements both of body and 
mind to which they were subject, and also the possession of 
the truth they had, these prophets ascribed to God. They 
likewise ascribed to Him the impulse they felt to declare 
that truth ; and the intermission of that impulse they also 
considered due to the intermission of the impulse exerted on 
them by Him. All this was certainly a belief really held 
by the prophets themselves. And it is equally certain that 
the belief was really shared by their countrymen, who were 
not themselves under the same influences. In addition, both 


the prophets themselves and their countrymen believed that 
they could declare things to come, and tell things hidden, 
and do works of power; and this might of word and deed 
was also referred to God. 

3. The prophets themselves call the divine influence or 
the divine person acting on them the Spirit of God. To 
express the variety of the influences they experienced, they 
use phraseology of various kinds. To describe the coming 
of this influence, they say that the Spirit was on them, that 
it rested on them, fell upon them, or laid violent hold upon 
them. 1 To describe its effects, they say that they were filled 
with the Spirit; 2 that it moved them, 3 took them, took 
them up, brought them, spoke in them, went away from 
them, or passed them by, and such like. To describe the 
influence as coming from God, they say that God pours out 
His Spirit 4 upon them, that He gives Him or puts Him 
upon one, 5 puts Him within one, 6 fills one with Him, 7 takes 
Him away from one, 8 and so on. To express the power and 
sometimes even the force of the divine influence, they speak 
of the hand of the Lord being on them, of its falling upon 
them, and of its being strong over them. Such phraseology 
concerning the Spirit and the hand of God describes the 
prophetic condition generally, both in its outward and its 
inner relations, for it is evident that the expression { hand ' 
of the Lord or ' power of the hand ' is not exclusively descript- 
ive of the outward phenomena of the prophet's activity, but 
is applied to the influence of the truth revealed. 

4. The prophets and the people drew a distinction be- 
tween truth so reached and opinions reached by other means, 
between those who spake by the Spirit and those who spake 
out of their own heart. That the prophecies differed, could 
be shown either by their results or by their character. By 

1 nh? Judg. 14 6 . 2 K!?O Mic. 3 s . 3 oys Judg. 13 25 . 

4 ps; and -HSV Joel 3 1 , Isa. 44 3 . 5 jm Isa. 44 3 . 6 3-332 me- Isa. 63". 

7 xVo Ex. 31 3 . 8 JP np$> Ps. 51 13 . 



their results, if their character was not decisive, for the 
predictions of prophets speaking by the Spirit came true ; 
those spoken by men out of their own heart did not. If it 
were too long to wait for results, they must then be judged 
by their character. If the words or counsel of the pretended 
prophet contradicted any of the principles of the theocracy 
or of common morals, they were to be discredited at once. 
" I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, 
like unto thee ; and I will put My words in his mouth ; and 
he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. 
But the prophet, who shall presume to speak a word in My 
name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who 
shall speak in the name of other gods, that prophet shall 
die. And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know 
the word which the Lord hath not spoken ? When a prophet 
speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, 
nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath 
not spoken." l 

This test, however, was one not always immediately 
applicable. It might be necessary to have some immediate 
test, whereby to try the prophet. The character of the pro- 
phecies was decisive, if their results were uncertain, or even 
if, for any reason, the prophecies came true. " If there arise 
among you a prophet or dreamer of dreams, and give a sign 
or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass, 
whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other 
gods, thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet 
or that dreamer of dreams ; for the Lord your God proveth 
you, to know whether ye love your God with all your heart 
and with all your soul." 2 Thus the moral everywhere takes 
precedence of the miraculous. 

Now these are, briefly, the phenomena of prophecy ; and 
the impression they make on one is that they are altogether 
extraordinary and not natural. But this impression, which 
1 Deut. IS 18 - 2 - 22 . " Deut. 13 1 ' 3 . 


the combined phenomenon produces, it has been sought to 
remove by analysing its various parts, and seeking to show 
that none of them separately need involve anything super- 
natural. The manifestation called prophecy, and the men 
called prophets, it is said, are not confined to the Jews. 
Prophecy is found among heathen peoples, in its beginnings 
at least, though in a state no doubt much feebler and less 
organised than among the Jews. But there is, at any rate, a 
natural prophecy. Therefore prophecy, as it existed among 
the Jews, must not forthwith be considered a supernatural 

Moreover, not only does the phenomenon exist, but 
many of its manifestations coincide with those of Hebrew 
prophecy, as for instance the mental elevation, the ecstasy, 
the dream, and even, though to a very feeble extent, the 
utterance of pertinent truth. Now, both these statements 
may be admitted, and perhaps neither the existence of 
prophecy nor the mere phenomena of it would prove its 
supernaturalness ; but any supposed identity with heathen 
prophecy will not disprove its supernatural character. It 
must be admitted that what reaches a very perfect con- 
dition among the Jews is seen only in rudiment among the 
heathen. And as to the real question, the specific dis- 
tinction of natural and supernatural, it must be had in 
remembrance that nature and grace, though called specifically 
distinct, are both realms where God and man meet; and 
on that account similar phenomena may to some extent be 
expected in both regions. But the similarity does not dis- 
prove the distinction. On the one hand, the bare existence 
of prophecy and its remarkable phenomena need not at once 
be held a supernatural thing among the Hebrews, there 
being at least the rudiments of such a thing among heathen 
nations. On the other hand, the existence among them of 
a phenomenon analogous to it, and of similar manifestations, 
cannot be held to invalidate a difference of category For, 


on any hypothesis, God and men are in relation : " He is not 
far from any one of us " ; and similar manifestations may 
be observable where there is a relation of the same thing, 
though it be a different relation. As a matter of fact, 
there is something widely unlike heathen prophecy with 
its apparently mere physical excitement, its rigid attachment 
to certain localities, its meagreness of result, the merely 
civil matters to which it gave itself, and its final extinction, 
after having accomplished nothing in that magnificent 
phenomenon of Jewish prophecy, which moved almost ex- 
clusively in high religious regions, and was so free in its 
exercise, and has left behind it such a legacy to the world. 
And it is worth remembering that all the prevailing methods 
of heathen prophesying are just those which the Bible con- 
demns and proscribes, and punishes with death. 

As to the reference of the prophetic word directly to 
God, this finds a parallel again, it is said, in heathenism ; 
and it is also due very much to a Jewish method of think- 
ing, according to which, in common with all Orientals, they 
refer every phenomenon without them, and every feeling or 
impulse, especially of a higher kind, within them, immedi- 
ately to God. This latter way of thinking among the people 
of Israel shows, it is said, that the idea of the supernatural 
was strange to them. Now, though it were the case that 
the extremely strong theistic feelings of this people did not 
draw any distinction between the system of nature all the 
processes of which were originated by God, and are upheld 
by Him, and are thus all manifestations of Him and a 
certain other class of things also originated by God and 
manifestations of Him, that would not hinder there being 
the two things, nor prevent us from distinguishing them, and 
calling the one supernatural. It might be that the people 
of Israel looked at them merely as having this in common, 
that God produced them and was to be seen in them, and 
that it was this element in them that seemed important. 


All that the objection is worth is to invalidate the positive 
inference to the supernatural from the immediate reference 
of the prophetic word to God, seeing those who refer it 
immediately to God certainly also refer natural phenomena 
immediately to Him. It does not go so far as to require 
the inference of anything on the other side. 

But I think justice is hardly done to Scripture, when it 
is said that the phenomena of nature and those of revelation 
are equally referred by it to God, or referred in the same 
manner to Him. For, without meaning to imply that such 
abstract notions as the supernatural are to be found in 
Scripture, I maintain that Scripture does draw the distinc- 
tion which we so describe. According to it, only the Jews 
and not the heathen had a revelation from God ; onlv the 


Jews had the knowledge of the true God, and this knowledge 
came to them, and was not arrived at by them. God chose 
Abraham; God gave the law to Israel; He passed the 
nations by, and left them in darkness. But it is manifest, on 
the other hand, that that kind of manifestation of Himself 
which is called natural was common to the heathen as well 
as to the Jews. Now, here is the fact, and we can hardly 
expect the categories of modern thinking in Scripture. In 
many passages of the Old Testament, and of course much more 
distinctly in the New, the distinction is drawn between the 
revelation of God in nature and in His law. According to 
the 19th Psalm, the heavens declare the glory of God, but 
the law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul. And 
the New Testament, while preserving the distinction, affirms 
that the one method of revelation is common to the whole 
world, even to the Gentiles : " That which may be known 
of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it to 
them. For the invisible things of Him from the creation 
are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are 
made " ; l and that the other is denied them, and given only 

1 Rom. i 19 - 20. 


to the Jews : " For when Gentiles which have no law do by 
nature the things of the law, these, having no law, are a law 
unto themselves." 1 

Now, I think these are fairly to be regarded as some- 
thing more than facts. It is not merely that the Jews have 
something which the other nations want, but God has given 
them something which He has denied the nations. And the 
very way of thinking among the people of Israel, according to 
which natural phenomena were direct works of God, rather 
goes to show, when they speak of revelation as peculiarly 
their own, not only that it was not involved in nature, or in 
those works of God which the Gentiles saw, but, besides 
being additional, was of another kind. 

At any rate, if we cannot with certainty infer from the 
general phenomena of Hebrew prophecy its supernaturalness, 
and are thrown back upon that element in it which has 
always been considered as proving its miraculousness, namely, 
prediction, there is, I think, in all its separate manifestations 
an elevation above the analogous things said to be discover- 
able among the heathen, a something in the manner and 
degree of it, which raises a fair presumption that it is of 
another kind. And then, when we find certain predictions 
uttered by the prophets, and certain wonders wrought by 
them, and consider that Hebrew prophecy was a unity, and 
that the prestige of the miracle and the prediction ought 
to be transferred to all the other manifestations, we feel 
satisfied of the supernaturalness of the whole manifestation. 

And there is another thing which to us in this age is 
stronger than anything, and that is the internal evidence 
of the truth of the prophetic words. Their statements 
regarding God and men and ethical truth commend them- 
selves to us now as self -evidencing. Oar position in the 
world is different from that of antiquity. We are, so to 
speak, old ; and we reason like old men. The world has 

1 Rom. 2 14 . 


had experience of other systems than that of Scripture, and 
it finds them unsatisfactory. It has had leisure to compare 
and live through much. It has, if I may say so, the ex- 
perience of a long life to go upon, and it now feels that 
the things said by the Hebrew prophets regarding God are 



THE prophetic style has several elements which distinguish 
it from the historical style, that is, from ordinary prose. 
These elements need to be taken into account, and allowed 
for, when we seek to ascertain a prophet's meaning, or 
inquire in what way his prophecy may be expected to be 
fulfilled. One of these elements is the poetical one. 

The prophecies are not written in prose. Their contents 
are poetical, and, to some extent, their form. They are not 
perfectly poetical in form like the more perfect Psalms ; 
but that which in Hebrew constitutes poetry, namely, paral- 
lelism of thought, either antithetic or synonymous, expressed 
in short, regular lines, is more or less a characteristic of 
them. And besides this poetry of form, all the material 
characteristics of poetry belong in a high degree to the 

The descriptions of a prophet are, like those of a poet, 
ideal ; and he very largely employs figure. But while a 
large part of the prophetic language may be explained in this 
way, some of it must be explained on other principles. The 
very large use of natural symbolism, such as, on the one side, 
the darkening of the sun, and the withdrawal of their shining 
by the stars, the desolation and mourning of the earth, and 
the like ; and, on the other side, the shouting of the waves, and 
the clapping of their hands by the forests, the blossoming of 
the desert, and its fertilising through abundant waters, causing 



general joy among the wild inhabitants of the waste, these, 
though poetry, are descriptions that rest on the basis of a 
fundamental truth, namely, the unity of the whole creation 
of which man is the head ; for in his joy and salvation, as 
in his judgment, all nature shares. If we subtract the 
elements in prophetic language due to this principle, a good 
deal of its supposed figurativeness will disappear, and also 
much of the so-called symbolism of it, on which so many 
curious theories of its interpretation have been based. If it 
be remembered that the prophets were poets, I do not think 
their language will seem unnaturally figurative. In saying 
this, what I wish especially to emphasise is, that there is 
no pervasive symbolism in the prophetic language, that, 
indeed, the language of the prophets is the language naturally 
to be expected in poetical and oratorical productions such as 
those of the prophets were, and that such a theory of the 
prophetical books as that they are written in a language of 
symbolism does them injustice. 

It is often said that the extreme figurativeness of the 
prophetic language is due to the fact that prophetic truth 
was received in vision. Many who speak in this way have 
no very clear notions as to what a vision is. There is no 
doubt that the vision, in the strict sense, was no essential 
of the mode of prophetic revelation. What was essential 
was that truth should come into the mind, accompanied by 
the feeling that it was from God. The vision was common, 
especially in early times. But from the fact that its use 
decreased or fluctuated, and that it appears in the case of some 
prophets and not in that of others, we must infer that it was 
merely a vehicle for revelation, and was not of the essence of 
revelation itself. It was used, probably, just because it was 
ready to hand. Now, to say that a person's language is 
figurative because he has perceived the truth in a vision, is 
like saying his language is figurative because he thinks in 
images or has a fancy. This way of speaking arises from 


considering the prophetic vision as a thing simply mechanical, 
not as an operation or creation of the mind at all, but as 
an objective thing held before the mind and seen by it, as 
people and mountains are seen by us when in a waking 

But the prophetic visions, like all visions, were produc- 
tions of the prophetic mind. The mind did not see what 
was projected before it ; it projected the visions by its own 
operation. Hence it is saying little or nothing to say that 
the prophetic language is figurative, because the prophetic 
truth was perceived in vision. 

Perception by vision being a mental operation and a 
natural one, though in this case made the means of reaching 
truth above the natural, we have to go a step further, and 
inquire why the prophets perceived truth in vision. And 
the answers to this question will not be one, but many. 
One answer will be, that the imagination or visual faculty 
was signally powerful, and that it was the natural organ 
to use in reaching truth. It was the natural organ in 
general for people of this nation, with whom the ratioci- 
native faculty was usually as feeble as the intuitive was 
strong. And it was specially natural in this class of men, 
the prophets, among whom, as poets, the imaginative faculty 
was more powerful than even among the bulk of their 
countrymen. It was perhaps a natural organ among most 
early peoples, because in the youth of the world the mind 
was fresher and more poetic. And also more particularly 
because truth was then new, and the emotions accompanying 
its discovery were strong, and the absorption of the mind in 
its own operations was very great. And as it was moral and 
religious truth which the Hebrew prophets were discover- 
ing, the emotions awakened by which are always profoundest, 
this adds another element of explanation of the prevalence 
of visions to those already given. That mechanical way 
of accounting for things which has greatly prevailed in 


reference to the prophets, is the thing to be chiefly avoided. 
If we say that the prophets were, on the side of their human 
activity, early Hebrew religious poets and preachers, we 
account for most elements of the form of their literary 

Now, the Old Testament dispensation had certain 
characteristics easily enough perceived. It was confined to 
the Jewish people. It was attached to the land of Canaan. 
It embraced a very complete ceremonial, tabernacle, sacri- 
fices, and the like. It was a kingdom of God on earth, and, 
in every aspect of it, was manifested in earthly symbols. 
The prophetic Scriptures are written in terms of this earthly 
symbolism. Hence, when the prophets speak of the king- 
dom of God, they speak of the kingdom of God that then 
was, and as it then was, namely, as an earthly kingdom. 
When they speak of the King of this kingdom, it is as a 
Davidic king, whatever attitudes they may assign to Him. 
When they speak of the extension of the kingdom of God, it 
is in the usual ways by which an earthly kingdom can be 
extended, either by warlike subjugation of hostile nations, or 
by foreign nations voluntarily placing themselves under its 

This may be taken as an example of how the prophets 
speak about every truth connected with the kingdom of God. 
And the first thing that is implied is this, that Israel was 
the people of God. That God is, Scripture does not prove, 
but assumes. That God has a people or Church, is implied 
in His being and in what He is ; and this also needs no 
proof. That Israel is God's people is many times asserted 
in Scripture, and is the assumption of the whole of it. This 
is the distinction between Israel and the nations. The one 
knows the true God, or rather is known of Him ; the others 
are not so known. There are thus two categories : the one 
may be called Church, and the other, world ; the one, Jews, 
and the other, Gentiles and heathens. The true religion 


prevails in the one, and false religions prevail among the 
other. These are all forms of expressing a fundamental 
conception of Scripture that Israel is religiously distinct 
from all other peoples, and that the true knowledge of 
the true God is in Israel, and nowhere besides. 

Now, if any one chooses he may contest this fundamental 
distinction. He may deny that such a distinction really 
existed ; but perhaps no one will be found to deny that the 
idea of it existed, and that it is many times expressed, 
and always presupposed, in the Scriptures. Without the 
admission that this is a fundamental idea of the Scriptures, 
they are absolutely unintelligible. And perhaps not many 
would deny the substantial truth of the idea. For to admit 
it does not necessarily require the admission of the super- 
naturalness of the revelation among Israel ; there may be a 
true and a false religion, although both be religions of 
nature. And it is now rather the manner of writers on 
Comparative Eeligion to admit the substantial trueness of the 
Jewish religion and the comparative falseness of all others, 
even while denying any generic distinction between the one 
and the other as to their origin. There was given to Israel 
the task of discovering and propagating the true religion, as 
there fell to the share of Greece the duty and the delight of 
disseminating the principles of beauty, and to Borne those of 
law. At all events, the idea prevails in Scripture not only in 
general, but in many particulars. Israel is not merely the 
kingdom of God, but Zion is His holy hill, the seat of His 
throne, and the family of David sits upon God's throne in 
Jerusalem ; and all that machinery of life and rule, which 
must exist in any well-ordered people, was, as existing in 
Israel, the government and manifestation of the kingdom of 

But nevertheless, on the other hand, this outward 
material form must never be forgotten. Israel was a king- 
dom among the kingdoms of the world ; it was one of the 


nations ; its land was a country among the countries of 
the East. All was real and substantial. This form was 
a thing as real as that other idea of which we have spoken. 
I think it may be questioned if the prophets had any idea 
of a Church abstractly, i.e. distinct in place and form from 
the Jewish commonwealth, or a thing of no place or form. 
The form of the Jewish State was inseparable from the idea 
of the kingdom of God. And, on the other hand, the idea 
of this kingdom was inseparable from the form of the Jewish 
State. The prophets do not seem at any time to speak of 
the State simply without considering it the kingdom of God, 
nor do they seem ever to contemplate a time when the form 
and the idea may be dis-associated, when the Jewish people 
shall be no more the kingdom of God, when it shall be a 
mere nation, and not, as now, also the Church. So firmly, 
indeed, are the two things welded together, that even in the 
new dispensation, when the kingdom of God becomes so 
extended that it embraces the nations, Israel, the present 
form of the kingdom, remains unaltered. There is a union 
of Jew and Gentile, but no incorporation. Both remain 
distinct ; the relation is conceived of rather as a homage 
than as an alliance, it is certainly never an amalgamation. 
This shows what is meant by saying that the language 
of the prophets is dispensational. It is meant, in a word, 
that in all their statements about the kingdom of God, even 
when uttering the most spiritual and glorious truths regard- 
ing it, what they speak about is the kingdom of God in that 
form and in those relations in which it existed in their own 
day. Thus, when Micah speaks of the Messiah who shall 
come out of Bethlehem Ephratah and rule God's people 
Israel and give them peace, he conceives Him as coming in 
the conditions of the kingdom of God then existing, and of the 
world and the nations that then were : " And this Man shall 
be peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land . . . 
thus shall He deliver us from the Assyrian, when he cometh 


into our land, and when he treadeth within our border." 1 
And Isaiah says, when describing the felicity and unity of 
the latter days : " Ephraim shall not envy Juclah, nor Judah 
vex Ephraim. But they shall fly upon the shoulders of the 
Philistines towards the West ; they shall spoil them of the 
East together: they shall lay their hand upon Edom and 
Moab ; and the children of Ammon shall obey them." 2 And 
Joel, describing the final condition of things when the day of 
the Lord and the great judgment is over, says : " Egypt shall 
be a desolation, and Edom a desolate wilderness. . . . But 
Judah shall dwell for ever, and Jerusalem from generation 
to generation." 3 Now, certainly in these passages the highest 
truths of the kingdom of God are prophesied. In the first 
passage, immunity in the Messiah's reign from all foes of 
God's kingdom ; in the second, peace and unity within the 
kingdom, and victory over all without ; and in the last, the 
eternity of this peace and victory ; but all these lofty truths 
are expressed in terms of the condition of things existing in 
the prophet's own day. 

Now, then, it is evident that the prophets are dealing 
with certain ideas and also certain things, ideas such as the 
kingdom of God, and that which is not the kingdom of God, 
the nations, or, as we name it, the world ; and things such as 
the Jewish State and the nations. And it is evident that 
though they never speak of these ideals abstractly, but 
always as they appeared in their day, the kingdom of God 
under the form of the Jewish State, and the world under the 
form of the nations of the earth, they may many times speak 
of them ideally, i.e. say things of them both far higher than 
it was possible for either of them to reach in the present 
mixed condition of the world. The kingdom of God is 
righteousness and peace, and Israel may be spoken of as 
righteous and peaceful. The world lieth in wickedness, and 
Babylon or Egypt may be spoken of as altogether evil. The 

1 Mio. 5 5 - 6 . 2 Isa. II 13 - 14 . 3 Joel 3 19 . 


perfect features of the idea will be attributed to each, 
although the face of Israel was never so lovely as that face of 
the Church " without spot or wrinkle or any such thing " ; 
and though the aspect of Babylon was never so hideous as that 
of the bloated harlot with the intoxicating cup of sorceries in 
her hand. Here we must either make allowance for the 
ideal character of the delineation, or relegate the fulfilment 
to the time when all that is now tendency shall have become 
consummation, when the severance between the tares and the 
wheat shall be complete. 

Again, the very opposite phenomenon may appear. If 
the form under which the kingdom of God existed in the 
time of the prophets should be considered not essential, or 
should have become altered in our day, their prophecies 
which embody that form may require some modification in 
interpretation, in order to accommodate them to the time 
when they are to be fulfilled. Thus two classes of pro- 
phecies may require some consideration in interpretation, 
namely, those where the delineation of Israel or the nations 
is of them ideally, as Church or world, i.e. where the form 
is almost entirely disregarded; and those where they are 
spoken of as they existed of old, i.e. where the form comes 
into great prominence. Eegarding the first class, we should 
have to inquire, How are they to be fulfilled in any temporal 
dispensation ? And regarding the others, How shall they be 
fulfilled now in the present dispensation, which is so different 
from the former ? 

In reference particularly to delineations of the latter 
kind, it is sometimes said that the prophets paint New 
Testament truths in colours borrowed from the Old. Those 
who speak in this way usually mean to say that the prophets 
consciously used a form of speech which they knew was 
not real. But this is just another fragment of that huge 
machine which used to go under the name of Revelation. 
What is to be maintained above all things is, that the 


prophets were serious in their delineations of truth. They 
knew nothing but their own dispensation. That dispensa- 
tion was a kingdom of God in a certain form, and it may 
be safely said that they had no knowledge of a kingdom 
of God in any other form. No doubt, they occasionally 
broke through the atmosphere of their own dispensation, and 
soared into regions higher and purer. Jeremiah predicts 
the formation of a new covenant with Israel, in which God 
would write His law on their hearts and not on tables of 
stone, that is, a spiritual covenant, and no more an earthly 
one, like the Sinaitic. And the author of the Epistle to 
the Hebrews argues skilfully enough from this prediction of 
a new covenant to the abrogation of the old : " In that He 
saith a new covenant, He hath made the first old. Now 
that which waxeth old is ready to vanish away." l But 
the rareness and the lateness of such breach with the old 
form is what gives it its significance. 

In these ancient prophets, the Church even of the 
Glorification still cleaves to Zion hill as its earthly centre. 
And I must repeat that it cannot be shown that the pro- 
phets ever used the words Zion, Jerusalem, and the like, as 
mere symbols of the Church of God. In the prophetic 
Scriptures, these words have always their natural, local, 
material force, the place of the Church of God. Nor can 
it be shown that the name of any country, such as Edom or 
Egypt, had ever lost its natural sense, and become a symbol 
for the world or the world-power, or for the enemies of 
the Church. These nations, such as Egypt, Babylon, and 
the like, were the world, the world-power ; and, of course, the 
words connote this idea along with the literal one. But in 
the Old Testament prophets the words had never come to 
connote this idea merely. Such terms in the prophets are 
always to be taken in their literal, natural sense. This I 
consider the first principle in prophetic interpretation to 

1 Heb. 8 13 . 


read the prophet literally to assume that the literal 
meaning is his meaning that he is moving among realities, 
not symbols, among concrete things like peoples, not among 
abstractions like our Church, world, etc. If we make this 
assumption, then we know what we have before us. We 
have a known relation of things, and we can comprehend 
what is said concerning it. We see the prophet's hopes and 
fears, his certainties, and, what fills up a much larger part 
of his page, his anticipations, his presentiments, his feelings 
and gropings after truth and the future of God's kingdom. 

We have, in a word, a living, thinking man, taught of God, 
amidst his circumstances, the leader of God's people in these 
circumstances, and speaking to them the truth in terms of 
their circumstances ; a man not illuminated further than 
was needful to make him useful for the work of his day, 
a work for which, perhaps, perfect illumination would 
have unfitted him, and therefore not a man made to use 
mechanically a symbolic speech which, if true for us, would 
have been a sheer mystery and unintelligibility to himself. 
The first thing in interpreting prophecy is to hold that the 
prophet had a meaning, that he uses language like any 
other writer, and that what he literally says he literally 
means. Thus, and thus alone, can we reach his meaning. 

It is another question altogether whether his literal 
meaning shall be literally fulfilled. A thousand things may 
intervene to modifiy the expression of the idea in its fulfil- 
ment. For the prophet spoke of the kingdom of God as 
it was in his day, though he may have said something of 
it that is going to come about only in our day. He repre- 
sented this as coming about in the conditions of his own 
time, while these conditions have quite disappeared, and the 
thing has yet to come about ; and when it comes about, it 
will be in the conditions of our day or of a future day, 
conditions very different indeed from his, and therefore it 
will come about in a way very different from his conception 


of it. Accordingly, when a discrepancy arises between the 
terras and form of a prophecy given in Old Testament times 
and the form in which we naturally look to see it realised 
in our times, it is, of course, an error to insist on the literal 
terms, and say, " These literal terms are the prophecy ; and 
being a prophecy, it must be literally verified. We cannot 
see how nations that no longer exist can take part in actual 
transactions ; but they are named in the prophecy, and it is 
ours to believe : the day will declare." Of the persons who 
so speak, one must say that they sacrifice their reason to their 
faith ; and they probably injure the truth more by their irra- 
tionality than they advance it by the spectacle of their faith. 
On the other hand, it is equally an error to say, " This 
prophecy can be realised now, in the times to which it refers, 
only in this general way. All these particulars of the Old 
Testament form are only symbols ; they must be stripped off, 
and then the bare truth they covered must be apprehended 
alone, and applied." This is equally false, because it gives 
no account of the form, and how thinking religious men so 
conceived the truth, and so expressed it. Of course, this 
method leads to less absurdity than the other in the matter 
of fulfilment ; but it is the fruit of a purely mechanical 
conception of the origin of the prophetic Scriptures. The 
true way to regard prophecy is to accept it literally as the 
meaning of the prophet, the only meaning which in his 
time he could have, but to say, as to fulfilment, that the 
form of the kingdom of God is now altered, and altered 
finally, never to return to its old form ; and so fulfilment 
will not take place in the form of the prediction, but in an 
altered form ; but still the truth of the prophecy will, no 
doubt, be realised. If it be objected to this way of con- 
ceiving the prophecies, that it makes the prophets state what 
is false, and appear as erring, ignorant men, the answer is, 
that it merely makes them share in the imperfection of the 
dispensation to which they belonged. And if it did not 


misbecome the author of revelation to give it gradually, at 
sundry times and in divers manners, bit by bit and in 
imperfect forms, it cannot have been unbecoming to use 
in the giving of it human minds imperfectly enlightened. 
And it does not reduce them quite so far as is often 
alleged ; for, as in the case of Jeremiah already cited, they 
were enabled, at any rate occasionally and in some par- 
ticulars, to rise above their dispensation. 

In reading any Hebrew prophet, we cannot but be struck 
with the fact that he moves among general truths and prin- 
ciples, and deals but rarely with anything that is specifically 
prediction. And even those things that are predicted are 
not contingent occurrences, but great momenta and develop- 
ments which appear necessary in the kingdom of God, such 
as the judgment, the pouring out of the Spirit, the restoration 
of Israel's captivity, and the destruction of all the foes of 
God's kingdom. These seem to be less of the nature of pre- 
dictions than the enunciation of great necessary principles, 
presentiments due to the religious and moral nature of the 
prophet, and anticipations of the broadest kind in regard to 
the kingdom of God. But in any inquiry as to how the 
things expressed by the prophet may be expected to be 
realised, any difference of opinion on this point is unim- 
portant. What is important is that these anticipations are 
uttered in this early age, and that they will, no doubt, yet 
find a realisation in the history of the Church ; for if any 
one hold them to be not predictions of contingencies, but 
expressions of essential developments of the kingdom of God, 
he must all the more firmly look to see them yet fulfilled. 
So far, different views of prophecy will not hinder agreement. 
But as these predictions or anticipations are put forth in 
language certainly coloured by the conditions of the world 
and the Church at the time of their utterance, and as these 
conditions have passed away without this fulfilment taking 
place, we cannot help inquiring whether there be not, in all 


prophecy, a large amount that need not be expected to go 
into fulfilment, and what elements in prophecy are, therefore, 
to be considered unessential. 

Now, prophecy is, as has been stated, poetical. This 
statement that it is poetical, I mean both in its positive and 
negative side. It is poetical, but it is not allegorical. The 
language of prophecy is real as opposed to allegorical, and 
poetical as opposed to real. When the prophets speak of 
natural objects or of the lower creatures, they do not mean 
human things by them, or human beings, but these natural 
objects or creatures themselves. When Joel speaks of locusts, 
he means these creatures. When he speaks of the sun, and 
moon, and stars, he means these bodies. When he says, 
" How do the beasts groan ! " he means the beasts, and not, 
as Hengstenberg thinks, the uncovenanted nations of the 
heathen world. When Isaiah says that there shall be a 
day of the Lord of hosts upon every one that is proud 
and lofty, " and he shall be brought low : and upon all the 
cedars of Lebanon that are high, and upon all the oaks of 
Bashan, and upon all the high mountains, and upon every 
high tower, and upon all ships of Tarshish," l he speaks 
literally, not allegorical ly, and really refers to cedars of 
Lebanon, to high towers, ships of Tarshish, and the like, 
and not to men under these figures. He is just speaking 
as literally as Joel does when he says, " I will show wonders 
in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars 
of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the 
moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the 
Lord come." 2 All these statements, when made by the 
prophets, are to be taken as real, and not as allegorical. 

But, on the other hand, what the prophets say of 
these may often be said poetically and not really, like that 
splendid description of the locusts in Joel, or those signs in 
the heavenly bodies enumerated among the terrors that are 

1 Isa. 2 12 ' 16 . 2 Joel 2 3 "- 31 . 


to herald the day of the Lord. It is a fair question ho\v 
much of what is thus said is to be interpreted literally. 
But there is no question whether it be those natural objects 
that are really spoken about. And this principle must 
be applied also to the interpretation of the Apocalypse. 
Thus the beasts that come up out of the bottomless pit 
are to be translated locusts, and not Turks or Saracens. 
When the tail of the great red dragon l is described as casting 
down a third part of the stars to the earth, that is not 
to be taken allegorically, that he threw down a third part 
or some part of the princes of the earth out of the political 
horizon, but that his fury and power were such that he 
seemed to lash the stars of heaven with his tail. It is, of 
course, possible that as the angel of the bottomless pit is an 
apostate angel, and as the stars or heavenly host are often 
in the Old Testament confused with the angels, this angel's 
dragging a third part of the host of heaven with him may 
refer to events in heaven of which we have notice elsewhere, 
and may point to a fall of angels of whom he was the leader. 
So, when the third angel sounded, and there was a great star 
burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part 
of the rivers, and on the fountains of water ; and the name 
of the star is called Wormwood, and the third part of the 
waters became wormwood, and many men died of the waters 
because they were made bitter, 2 that star is not to be alle- 
gorised into some baleful leader, like Attila the Hun, falling 
on the third part of the human race, here called waters, 
because men are here distinguished from the waters of which 
they drank and died. The whole is to be taken as meaning 
the things said. 

All this is so evident, that I would not have alluded to 
the matter at all, if this way of allegorising into human 
relations the symbolism of nature were not often made 
the basis of prophetical interpretation. Even Dr. Fair- 

1 Rev. 12. 2 Rev. 8. 


bairn says, 1 " As little will the interpreter doubt that both in 
the prophecies of Old Testament Scripture and in the Book of 
Kevelation, mountains are a common designation for worldly 
kingdoms, stars for ruling powers, roaring and troubled seas 
for tumultuous nations, trees for the higher, as grass for 
the lower, grades of society, running streams for the means 
of life and refreshment," etc. In a popular anonymous ex- 
position, the author writes as follows : " Thus by diligent 
search in the Scriptures we discover the symbols here em- 
ployed in such connection that their meaning is obvious ; 
and when we meet the same symbol in the Apocalypse, 
we have only to transfer its ascertained meaning to the 
prediction under review, and without more ado we translate 
it into plain language ; thus we come to read off the 
Apocalyptic prophecies much as we should any ordinary 
writing. As an example of the way in which an alphabet 
of the Apocalypse might be made out, we may instance 
a few of its more prominent symbols : Earth symbolises 
society in a settled state; sea, society in a state of 
convulsion ; rivers, nations ; a flood, nations in motion ; 
mountains and islands, great and small kingdoms ; air, 
the political atmosphere ; heaven, the civil or ecclesias- 
tical firmament ; sun, the monarch ; stars, inferior rulers ; 
hail and thunder, wars ; earthquakes, revolution ; horn, 
king or kingdom," etc. Now, there is no attempt made to 
prove that such a symbolism prevails in Scripture. All 
that is thought needful is to find some passage in the Old 
Testament Scripture where the natural object in question 
is compared to the human thing or relation, or vice versd, 
and it is assumed that wherever the natural object occurs, 
henceforth in the Apocalypse it may be interpreted of the 
human relation. 

The simplest and most legitimate way of treating these 
assumptions is to deny them. I deny that the ' sun ' means 
1 Fairbairn on Prophecy, p. 133. 


chief ruler in prophetical Scripture, or anything else than 
the sun ; that the ' moon ' means anything but the moon, 
and the ' stars ' anything but the heavenly bodies so called. 
I deny that ' air ' means the political atmosphere, or 
' heavens ' the social or ecclesiastical firmament, abstrac- 
tions absolutely unheard of in Scripture. I deny that 
' island ' means little kingdom, and ' mountain ' great 
kingdom, or that there is any established usage whereby 
they mean anything but island and mountain respectively. 
The word ' islands ' may also be translated ' coasts ' ; and 
as the islands themselves and the indented island -like 
coasts of many parts of the Mediterranean, which were 
most familiar to Scripture writers, were the most populous 
parts of the earth, ' islands ' may mean populous lands ; 
and very naturally mountains may stand for any lofty 
object, particularly any great obstacle, whether kingdom or 
otherwise, to the advancement of God's cause, as in Zech. 4 7 . 
" Who art thou, great mountain ? Before Zerubbabel thou 
shalt become a plain." But there is no such established 
usage in prophetical Scripture as that mountain may forth- 
with be translated kingdom. I deny that 'rivers' means 
nations, or ' floods ' nations in motion, or ' sea ' society 
in a state of convulsion, except when they are expressly 
declared to do so; and that it is a legitimate style of inter- 
pretation to say that the floods which the dragon vomited 
forth after the woman were the hordes of northern nations ; 
and that the earth swallowing them up, means their absorp- 
tion by the settled state of society, one of the most respect- 
able uses of this method, but without foundation. 

It is quite natural that the first world-monarchy, Babylon 
on the Euphrates, that queenly city sitting on many waters, 
should be idealised into that great empire reposing on many 
peoples. And it is expressly so explained of Eome, the new 
Babylon, in the Apocalypse, "that the waters where the 
whore sitteth are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and 


tongues." But the fact of an explanation being added shows 
that there is no established usage, and that elsewhere we 
cannot venture on such an explanation. I deny that ' hail 
and thunder ' mean wars : they mean hail and thunder, which 
may be God's great instruments of judgment, as they were 
in Egypt. Neither does ' earthquake ' mean revolution, nor 
' horn ' kingdom, except when they are said to do so. Horn 
has the general sense of instrument of pushing, or power, in 
Zechariah ; but no doubt in Daniel it has the meaning, king 
or kingdom, and also in the Apocalypse, which resumes largely 
the symbolism of Daniel. But in both cases it is expressly 
explained to be a symbol of kingly power or of a king in 
certain cases, though in others it can hardly be so, for the 
dragon has seven heads and ten horns. 

Now, if we deny any such symbolical or allegorical alpha- 
bet, much more may we deny that any book of Scripture 
is written in it. And if to these denials we add one more, 
namely, that ' day ' in prophetical Scripture means year, we 
shall be safe against both the operations and the conclusions 
of the Apocalyptists. What we have to beware of is a 
tendency to regard Scripture as written in an artificial style, 
which requires much expenditure of ingenuity to see through. 
Under this impression we hear and read of what is called 
the ' structure ' of prophecy ; as if the prophetical books 
had some special form peculiar to themselves, or as if there 
were something formal and of set purpose in the shape which 
the prophecies have, which could be discovered only after 
much investigation. It is perhaps not surprising that arti- 
ficial webs should have been woven by students of the Bible 
over the face of Scripture. When we consider the amount 
of thought bestowed on the Bible for so many ages, the 
fascination which its study has had for devout minds, many 
of whom, however, were not very well disciplined or regulated., 
and the tendency of such minds to find something strange or 
out of the common in Scripture, less in its thoughts, which 


are out of the common, than in its form, we do not wonder 
that the interpretation of some parts of it, particularly 
the prophetical, should have been made a very artificial 

But now we must return to our consideration of the 
poetical and dispensational elements in prophecy, and the 
influence they may be supposed to have on interpretation. 
These two elements are not generally kept apart, but are 
found mixed together. As an example of pure poetry, we 
may take Joel's description of the assault of the locusts ; and 
as an example of pure dispensational reference, his statement 
that God will bring again the captivity of Judah and Jeru- 
salem. Both elements are mixed together in Isaiah's prophecy 
of the mountain of the Lord : " The mountain of the Lord's 
house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and 
shall be exalted above the hills ; and all nations shall flow 
unto it. And many peoples shall go and say, Come ye, and let 
us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the 
God of Jacob." Poetry and dispensation are also found com- 
mingled in the concluding passage of Joel's prophecy : 

"The mountains shall drop down new wine, 
And the hills shall flow with milk, 
And all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters ; 
And a fountain shall come forth of the house of the 


And shall water the valley of Shittim. 
Egypt shall be a desolation, 
And Edom a desolate wilderness. 


But Judah shall dwell for evermore, 

And Jerusalem from generation to generation." 

In almost all the predictions of the prophets, there are 
elements that we hardly expect to pass into fulfilment, 
whether these are against the nations hostile to Israel, or 

K If 


regarding the felicity of Israel in the latter days. Thus in 
Isa. 13 the following occurs in the prophecy against 
Babylon : 

" It shall never be inhabited, 

Neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation ; 
Neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there ; 
Neither shall the shepherds make their fold there. 
But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there ; 
And their houses shall be full of doleful creatures ; 
And owls shall dwell there, 
And satyrs shall dance there." l 

And in the prediction of the ruin of Edom, where it is 

" The streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, 
And the dust thereof into brimstone, 
And the land thereof shall become burning pitch. 
It shall not be quenched night nor day ; 
And the smoke thereof shall go up for ever." 2 

Likewise, in his description of the final peace and felicity 
of Israel, we read : 

" The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, 
And the leopard shall lie down with the kid ; 
And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together ; 
And a little child shall lead them. 
And the cow and the bear shall feed, 
Their young ones shall lie down together ; 
And the lion shall eat straw like an ox. 
And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, 
And the weaned child put his hand on the basilisk's den." 3 

On what principles shall we interpret such language ? 
Let us approach the question gradually. First, it is a good 
rule to examine carefully what the prophet actually says. 

1 Isa. 13 20 '-. - Isa. 34 9f -. 3 Isa. ll 6 ' 8 . 



to consider whether he be predicting any specific historical 
event, or whether he be not rather enunciating some general 
principle of the kingdom of God. It is rarely safe to ask, 
to what historical event does the prophet here refer ? because 
he may have no such reference. It is safe to assume that 
he has some general thought which he is uttering. This is 
both safe and fair, because the cases in which the prophets 
utter general principles preponderate greatly over the cases 
in which they directly predict future contingencies. For 
example, when Joel says, speaking for God, " It shall come 
to pass afterwards that I will pour out My Spirit on all 
flesh," it is not safe as a method of interpreting, nor fair 
to the writer whom we seek to interpret, to inquire : To 
what historical event does the prophet refer in these words ? 
Is he thinking of Pentecost, or of some greater outpouring 
yet to come upon the Church of the last days ? Who knows 
whether he was thinking of any historical event ? He is 
predicting things, not individual historical events. When 
Isaiah predicts that the mountain of the house of the Lord 
shall be exalted above the hills, is he predicting the early 
history of Christianity ? or the later, when Israel shall be 
restored, and be the centre of a new world ? Or is he pre- 
dicting any particular event, and not rather just expressing 
the general conception that all nations shall yet acknowledge 
that Israel possesses the truth, and shall derive their own 
knowledge of the truth from Israel ? 

We must realise to ourselves the prophet's position. He 
is a prophet in Israel. At present Israel alone possesses the 
knowledge of Jehovah, the true God. But this knowledge 
shall yet be universal. Though confined to Israel now, it 
shall go forth from Israel to all peoples. Moreover, in the 
prophet's day, those acknowledging Jehovah went up to 
Jerusalem to worship, and so Isaiah represents all nations 
as making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, being worshippers of 
Jehovah, who has His seat there. 


If we begin by asking to what event did the prophet 
refer, we foreclose any but one application of the prophecy, 
and we do violence to the terms of the prediction. Joel 
predicted an outpouring of God's Spirit on all flesh : if 
that has ever taken place, it has been a fulfilment of the 
prediction ; and if it take place again, it will be another 
fulfilment; and if it take place continuously through thou- 
sands of years, it is also a fulfilment of the prophecy. If 
it has not yet taken place, the prophecy has not yet been 
fulfilled ; if it has taken place in some measure, if that 
measure was such that the language could be fairly used 
of it, then, up to that measure, the fulfilment has come 
about. But if there be any defect, seeing the words of 
the prophet are round and strong, that defect will, no 
doubt, yet be remedied, and the fulfilment take place up to 
the fair measure of the prediction. The Apostle Peter applies 
the words to the time of Pentecost. He does not say they 
were exhausted in that application, and so applicable to 
these times alone. But he says that they had not been 
applicable to any event before that time, for the words of 
Joel, " Afterwards I will pour out My Spirit," he changes 
into, " In the last days I will pour out My Spirit " ; and 
that expression, " In the last days," is technical for the 
Christian era. 

What Joel predicts is that thing which is characteristic 
of Christianity the pouring out of God's Spirit ; the question 
of time is given in the expression ' the last days,' the dispen- 
sation of which the thing predicted is characteristic. But 
the prediction may be fulfilled in any event exhibiting this 
characteristic, whether at the beginning or towards the con- 
summation of the new dispensation, or at any point within 
its duration, that is, the prediction may be a-fulfilling may 
be receiving fulfilment, more or less complete, throughout the 
Christian dispensation, though it must yet be adequately ful- 
filled. In other words, what the prophecy contains is not 


strictly the historical event of Pentecost; it may contain 
many other historical events, some of which are yet to come. 
What it predicts is the new dispensation, with its character- 
istic, the outpouring of the Spirit on all flesh ; the gift of 
the Spirit, and the universality of the gift, and the truth that 
it is no more the peculiar property of men such as the Old 
Testament prophets. It is the same prediction as Jeremiah's 
prediction of the New Covenant : " I will write My law on 
their hearts ; and they shall no more teach every man his 
fellow-citizen, and every man his brother, saying, Know the 
Lord : for all shall know Me, from the least of them unto the 
greatest of them." 

Again, a second rule is not only to examine closely what 
the prophet actually says, but, if we have reason to think that 
he is speaking in language not literal, to inquire what ideas at 
least lie under the figurative or dispensational language. Thus, 
when Joel says that the hills shall drop down new wine, and 
all the rivers of Judah shall flow with water, in the regenerated 
world, he means that the evils which in his day afflicted men 
should, in that happy day, be turned into their opposite goods. 
And when he says that Egypt shall be a desolation, and the 
like, he means that the enemies of God's kingdom shall cer- 
tainly then, or ere then, be all quite destroyed. And when 
Isaiah predicts that the creatures now at enmity shall be 
reconciled, and that a little child shall touch the most danger- 
ous, and lead the most savage and powerful of them, he certainly 
expresses the idea of a universal peace upon the earth, when 
all violence and wrong shall be at an end, and enmities shall 
cease. His prophecy is, first of all, a prophecy regarding men, 
and regarding the condition of the kingdom of God. " There 
shall be abundance of peace, and they shall not hurt nor 
destroy in all My holy mountain." Those in the kingdom 
shall be secure from all dangers, just as it is elsewhere 
represented that God's people shall make a covenant with 
the beasts of the field, which, of course, at that time were 


dangerous. This is certainly Isaiah's idea ; and it may be 
that, in order to give vivid expression to his idea of this 
peace on earth, he represents the enmities and cruel natures, 
even of the lower creatures, as disappearing ; just as one, in 
painting a picture of perfect peace, might represent the wild 
animals quietly led by a child. At least, this is the main 
conception expressed by his prophecy, though it is possible 
that more may be expressed. But whether more or not, 
may be left over on the first and general consideration of 
the prophecy. Similarly, when in the same prophecy he 
says " that the Lord shall recover the remnant of His people 
that shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from 
Pathros, and from the islands of the sea, and shall assemble 
the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of 
Judah from the four corners of the earth " ; and when Joel 
says " that God shall bring again the captivity of His people," 
both of them certainly mean that at the time of which they 
speak, or in that condition of things to which they refer, those 
evils that afflict the members of the kingdom of God now 
evils of dispersion and oppression shall all have ceased ; and 
they shall never more be deprived of their privileges, or 
warred against and overcome by a hostile world. In like 
manner, when Isaiah predicts such a desolation for Babylon, 
we may be certain, if the event be fulfilled at all, that that 
which is Babylon shall be destroyed. And when Zechariah 
comforts Zion, saying, " Eejoice greatly, daughter of Zion : 
behold, thy King cometh to thee : he is just, and having 
salvation ; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the 
foal of an ass," he means at least that the King of Zion shall 
not come to her as a man of war, but as a Prince of Peace. 

So far, all interpreters of prophecy proceed harmoniously. 
But at this point a divergency commences. One school con- 
siders that no more of fulfilment is to be looked for than the 
general realising of the ideas. The clothing of the ideas has to 
be stripped away. There is no correspondence to be looked for 


between the form of the prediction and the form of the fulfil- 
ment. Should history show an actual correspondence, that 
will be due to one or other of three things : either it will be 
coincidence ; or, second, it will be essential to fulfilment in any 
form, and present in the fulfilment because essential to every 
form of fulfilment, and not because given in the prediction. 
Indeed, its presence in the prediction is to be explained on 
this very ground. Thirdly, it may be wilful on the part 
of the person fulfilling the prophecy, arising from his being 
acquainted beforehand with the prediction, as may have 
been the case with several of the so exact fulfilments of 
prophecy in Christ's history ; or it may be wilful on the 
part of God, an after disposal of things, so as very visibly 
and strikingly to fulfil even literally a prophecy which 
would have been fulfilled quite to the full, had no such 
literal correspondence between its terms and the events 
been seen. This last is called by Dr. Arnold l ' fulfilment 
ex abundante' and, of course, is to be seen only in a few 

Another school pursues a method of interpreting precisely 
the opposite of this, and considers that the ideas of the pro- 
phecy will come to fulfilment exactly in the form in which 
they are expressed in the prediction. They hold, for example, 
that the exact terms of the prediction of the destruction of 
Babylon will be realised ; that Israel literally, i.e. the Jewish 
people, will be gathered out of all lands and again restored 
to their own land, and much more of the same kind. This 
school of interpreters is greatly represented by those who 
make a very large apologetic use of prophecy. 

Now, without following either school, we may state, as 
a third rule, that it seems only what is due to Scripture, 
to inquire whether, in addition to the fulfilment of the 
main ideas, some part of the form, or all of the form, in 
which the prophet presents the main ideas, may not also 
1 Cf. Two Sermons on the Interpretation of Prophecy, in Sermons, vol. i. 


be realised in the event. The fulfilment must take place 
in some form ; and it is certainly in many cases quite 
possible that it should take place in something like the 
form presented by the prophet. The fact that he conceived 
the fulfilment in any specific form, suggests a line of inquiry 
to us, apart from his authority ; and ought to be enough, 
when we take his authority into account, to make us 
search reverently, whether from the nature of the case 
also, if the prophecy has not yet been fulfilled, we may 
not look for it as he has described ; or, if it be already ful- 
filled, whether history does not show it to have been so ful- 
filled. The difficulties in the way of this investigation will 
perhaps be many and great ; and perhaps the advantages to 
be gained from any actual discoveries that we may make 
may not be important. The chief advantage will be 
found in taking up this attitude towards prophecy. Cer- 
tainly, very remarkable correspondences between the form of 
events fulfilling prophecy and the terms of prophecy can be 
shown ; and it is both the part of a scientific inquirer after 
truth and of a reverent student of prophecy, not hastily to 
take up with any current method, but to maintain an attitude 
of reserve, till he can bring his own investigations to some 

To sum up, therefore, our conclusions as to the fulfilment 
of poetical language. First, It is essential to a fair apprecia- 
tion of prophecy to admit the poetical element. The 
prophecies are not strictly poetry in form, that is, their 
parallelism is not so complete as in the Psalms, but in all 
that concerns the thoughts they are poetry, and they approxi- 
mate in the structure of the sentence to the exactest form of 
poetry among the Hebrews. They are prose poetry, or 
poetical oratory. Now it is the nature of poetry to be 
ideal. The event predicted or described will have flung about 
it all the pecularities that characterise such events in general, 
and these characteristics will be presented in their most 


perfect form and degree. Consequently, to expect fulfilment 
in the exact terms of the prophecy, is to mistake its nature. 
Fulfilment in the manner and up to the measure given in 
the prediction is not to be expected, but only fulfilment in 
general. For example, when the prophet Micah predicts that 
Zion shall be ploughed like a field, his language means 
nothing more than that the city shall be utterly wasted. 
We do not expect that the plough should actually go over 
Zion ; and if history should show that it had not, we should 
still regard the prophecy as completely fulfilled. Again, 
though Christ Himself says of the temple, that not one 
stone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown 
down, while the excavations of Captain Warren have laid 
bare some rows of great stones with the marks of Phoenician 
stone-hewers on them, showing that they had never from the 
most ancient times been displaced, we do not regard the 
prophecy as any the less signally verified. If an interpreter 
possess a moderate share of common reason, he will not, on 
the one hand, look for such minuteness of fulfilment, nor, on 
the other, think that the want of it invalidates the prophecy. 
Second, But now, if we inquire with what amount of 
exactitude we may expect to see the prophecy fulfilled, I 
believe that each case must be investigated for itself. We 
must not assume that none of the details and no part of the 
form will come to fulfilment ; but we may not be able, from 
the prophecy itself, to say how much. Still we may assume 
that some part will, and we must turn to other considerations 
or other sources of information or presumption, to determine 
the amount. But it is evident that, if we hold the main ideas 
to be certainly fulfilled, the question of the details, or degree, 
or manner is much less important, and more a matter for 
private investigation than for public confession or teaching. 
One consideration that will prove helpful will be the general 
nature of the case, or what probabilities arise from the general 
conditions of the prediction. We shall not likely derive much 


help from this ; because, though we may thus be enabled to 
expect with some degree of confidence to find certain things 
in the fulfilment literally, which are also in the prediction, 
they may be things essential to fulfilment, and would be there, 
whether they had been predicted or no. Thus, when Isaiah 
says that doleful solitary birds shall dwell in the ruins of 
Babylon, that, on the one hand, is so invariable an accom- 
paniment of desolation that we might look for its presence 
though not predicted, and so much an element of the idea of 
ruin, that we look for it in the prediction, whether it be ful- 
filled or no. With regard, therefore, to those ideal delinea- 
tions, we may be unable to verify the connection between the 
details of the prediction and those of the fulfilment. 

Again, we may find some help in other Scripture, which 
may indicate what presumptions there are, that the prophecy 
will be fulfilled precisely as predicted. Thus, with regard to 
that prophecy of Isaiah's regarding the harmonious fellowship 
of the creatures in the restored world, it is an interesting 
inquiry what the teaching of Scripture is regarding death 
even among the lower creatures, and their fierce warring 
upon one another, which science shows to pervade all grades 
of being, the fiercest conflicts being seen to rage even among 
the microscopic animalcules. Other Scripture might help 
to show us whether it is probable that the prophet spoke 
what was a literal opinion to himself, or clothed a truth 
which had reference to men alone, in this remarkable dress. 
Keeping the question open will lead us at least into inter- 
esting lines of inquiry. 

Once more, the history of fulfilment, whether in Scripture 
or in profane history, may be fruitful of information to us. 
But any induction of historical fulfilment will need to be 
very widely made, and such results may not rise from it as 
we hope for. Because, on the one hand, we have very little 
history relating to the fulfilment of prophecy, and from its 
nature prophecy often fulfils itself gradually, and we must 


pursue the track of history down through many ages. We 
cannot conclude, because we find in the first incidence of the 
prediction, so to speak, no exact fulfilment, that there may 
not be exactitude. And, on the other hand, we may be in 
doubt whether some of the details be not coincidence, and 
whether others be not essential. In that prophecy of 
Zechariah regarding the coming of the King to Zion, it 
would be unwise, 1 should think, to say that only the idea 
of Christ's humility and peaceful rule is predicted in the 
figure used by the prophet, namely, riding upon an ass. 
Standing at a point anterior to fulfilment, we might be 
inclined to think so, and there might be considerations 
which would lead us to consider it improbable that the 
act predicted should literally take place. But, now that 
history shows it to have been actually verified, would it 
be wise to deny it to have been a real element of the 
prediction ? To argue that Christ intentionally verified it 
out of condescension to the weakness and needs of His 
countrymen, does not seem to alter the nature of the earlier 
prediction. Whatever led to the fulfilment, even though 
it were Christ's view that it was needful to fulfil it literally, 
should we not infer that this way of fulfilment was 
involved in the prediction ? 

Now, this may be satisfactory, so far as the prophet's 
own mind was concerned. But the question has another 
side a side in reference to Scripture as the word of God. 
And it is this side which has, as was natural, been chiefly 
thought of in the Church ; and that side of the question 
which concerned the prophet's own mind has only very 
recently risen into any prominence and commanded any 
interest. It was natural, when such a prophecy as that of 
Micah was read regarding the Messiah, who, the prophet 
said, should save his people from the Assyrian, to ask how 
the latter term was to be understood, seeing the Assyrian 
had disappeared long ere the Messiah came ? And the 


natural suggestion was that the term ' Assyrian ' was sym- 
bolical or typical of the Church's foes. Hence the general 
theory prevailed that everything within Israel and around 
her was typical, and symbolised things in the new dispen- 
sation. Thus Scripture, though using such symbolic lan- 
guage, means no more than the general ideas underlying 
the phraseology. This has been the general theory, and 
this is the kind of language used, when difficulties of this 
sort arose. 

It was thought that some such theory was necessary in 
order to uphold a doctrine of Scripture sufficiently high ; for 
if Scripture represented the Assyrian as existing in the 
time of the Messiah, while history has shown him to have 
disappeared long before the Messiah's advent, Scripture 
might be brought into disrepute ; while, if all that Scripture 
meant by the Assyrian was the general idea of foe of God's 
people, then it remained true, for the Messiah restrains and 
conquers all His and our enemies. The theory, however, 
is a very artificial one, and it does no justice either to 
history or to the prophet's mind. Certainly the prophet, so 
far as his own mind was concerned, did not use the term 
' Assyrian ' merely as a symbolical name for foe of the Church. 
He meant the Assyrian, who, no doubt, was the foe of the 
Church. And perhaps, without burdening ourselves with 
any theory of typology of this kind, it is safer to say, not that 
Assyria is a symbol or type of all enemies of God's kingdom, 
but that the truth expressed by the prophet in regard to 
Assyria is, of course, not limited to Assyria, but may be 
applied to all foes of the people of God. It is a truth which 
may be generalised, though the circumstances of early revela- 
tion led to its being expressed at first in a form which was 
not general but particular. Probably this statement will not 
seem to differ much from the other. At all events, this way 
of stating the case conserves the literal sense of the prophet's 
words, and allows us to perceive how he thought and spoke, 


as one would naturally do in the circumstances in which 
he was placed. In other words, his language and thought 
were what is called dispensatioual. He did not give forth 
abstract thoughts, but expressed truths for the instruction of 
the people of God of his own day in terms of the condition 
of the world in that day, for in no other way could he have 
been instructive to those to whom he spoke. 

But in interpreting such language, or at least in reading 
it for our own guidance in this age, while we must first, 
above all things, if we are to understand the prophet, read 
his language literally, we may have to take into account very 
many considerations. For example, in the prophecy, Isa. 2 1 " 5 , 
we must distinguish between the general idea and the 
particular form, not now likely to be realised, as an actual 
pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Scripture certainly expects that, in 
our interpretation of such a prophecy, we shall employ the 
principles of common sense, and above all that we shall 
bring to bear upon the earlier parts the clearer light supplied 
by revelation in its later stages. No prophecy of Scripture 
is of private interpretation, in the sense that it is to be read 
separately. Scripture is a whole ; and each part of it is to 
be interpreted in the light of the whole ; and while we must 
read it literally in order to understand the message of the 
prophet for his own age, we may be obliged for many reasons 
to conclude that only the general idea which he expresses 
remains true for our own and future ages. 

This is a wide principle. And it is just at this point 
that the two great schools of prophetic interpretation go 
apart from one another. I may take an illustration. Every 
prophet predicts the return of Israel to her own land in the 
latter days. In the final state of the kingdom of God upon 
the earth, the people shall again dwell in the ancient heri- 
tages. Now this idea of the prophets must certainly be 
taken literally, if we desire to understand what they mean. 
They are not, when they so speak, using an elaborate system 


of symbolical language, according to which Israel is a symbol 
of the Church or people of God, and the land of Canaan a 
symbol for those spiritual blessings which God shall richly 
bestow on His people, when the kingdom is the Lord's. To 
suppose so is entirely to misunderstand the prophets ; it is 
to make wholly inexplicable the ideas prevailing even among 
the disciples of our Lord, ideas which they express, when 
they put such questions to Him as this : " Wilt Thou at this 
time restore the kingdom unto Israel ? " We must read such 
language in the prophets literally, if we are to comprehend 
their meaning, and the sense in which all who heard them 
understood them. One school of interpreters in our day 
holds that, seeing this is unmistakably their meaning, their 
predictions regarding Israel shall certainly be fulfilled. That 
people must be again restored to their own land. 

So far, we must ally ourselves with this class of inter- 
preters. They rightly perceive the meaning of the prophets ; 
and that other school of interpreters, who contend that the 
prophets are merely using symbolical language for New Testa- 
ment things, cannot be considered as doing justice to them. 
It is another question, however, how far the prophetic con- 
ceptions shall be literally fulfilled in the form in which, in 
that age, they were expressed. We must attend to any indi- 
cations which subsequent revelation furnishes regarding the 
question, and inquire how far the principles of the New 
Testament dispensation lead us to suspect or infer that such 
prophecies have a certain dispensational form which may 
require to be stripped off; and that now, when the condition 
of the world has so greatly changed, and when the form of 
the kingdom of God has likewise altered, only the general 
idea contained in the prophecies may be expected to be 
fulfilled. It is of great importance to keep these questions 
separate, the question what the prophets in their age meant, 
and the question of fulfilment now in this Christian age. 
The prophets construct for the perfect kingdom of God the 


form it would have had, if it had come in their age. Each 
prophet does this. 

There are three general points to be attended to 

First, all prophecy reposes upon the conditions of the 
world existing in the day of the prophet, and operates with 
the moral and other forces then prevailing. 

Secondly, all prophecy refers also to the incoming of the 
perfect kingdom of God, which is spoken of in the Old 
Testament as the day of the Lord, or the coming of the 
Messiah, and in the New Testament, as His second coming. 
This kingdom of God expresses perfect moral and religious 

Thirdly, in all prophecy the connection between the 
prophet's present and this perfect future appears to the 
prophet's view virtually immediate. The forces operating 
in his own time seem, to his view, to issue directly in the 
incoming of God's glory. Thus in Isa. 9, the child born and 
son given appears amidst the desolations created by the 
Assyrian invasion ; and in the later chapters the final glory 
of Israel follows closely upon the restoration from exile. 
And so in the Apocalypse, the second coming of the Lord 
follows close upon the back of the great occurrences of the 

seers own age. 

In point of fact, however, fulfilment does not quite 
follow this method of conception. The forces operating 
in the prophet's day do not immediately issue in the end. 
They become transmuted into other forces, or at least assume 
other forms ; and the end is thrust back, great spaces of 
time being interposed between the prophet's present, and 
the end which he foresees. Yet the foreseen end remains, and 
the prophecy of it is not a failure. But, instead of coming in 
his day, it may be still to come in ours. His great religious 
truths concerning the kingdom of God abide. These eternal 
truths concerning the final condition of the kingdom of 
God are common to all the prophets. But each of them 


combines these truths with the conditions of the world in his 
own day, and out of these conditions constructs anew the 
regenerated world. From one we may have but a few 
general, gigantic outlines, merely enough to suggest his 
conception ; from another, a complete structure. But these 
constructions are not history, and may never become history. 
They are ideal, moral fabrics, reared of necessity out of the 
materials offered by the conditions of the world and the 
people of God lying around the prophet. The conceptions 
are universal, but the materials that serve to embody and 
express them change and decay, and have from age to age 
to be replaced, though the ideal abides, and is as perfect 
and heavenly in our day, as it was in that of the prophet. 
Just as we must estimate the Old Testament dispensation 
not by itself, but as a part only of a whole, so the Old 
Testament Scriptures are to be estimated not as independent, 
but as parts of a whole. 

Thus, if we would interpret the prophet historically, we 
must realise to ourselves the condition of the world in his 
day, and the currents then running, and observe how he 
combines them with his great and unchangeable principles 
regarding the kingdom of God. If we would apply the 
prophet's words to our own day, we must substitute the state 
of the world now existing and the forces now prevailing 
which correspond to those of his day, and have arisen out 
of them, and again connect these with the prophet's thoughts 
of the kingdom of God, for these truths belong to us as well 
as to him. And those who follow us in changed conditions 
of the world will have to do the same. 

Thus the following working rule arises : 

If the prophet's words apply only to the Old Testament 
dispensation, and are to be fulfilled in it, they will, no doubt, 
be fulfilled literally in terms of the Old Testament dispensa- 

If his prophecies refer to things only to be realised in 



the New Testament dispensation, then we shall probably 
have to strip off from them the Old Testament form, which 
arose from the dispensation and time when the prophet 
lived, and look for their fulfilment in a way corresponding 
to the spirit of the New Testament dispensation and the 
altered conditions of the world. Hence, perhaps not much 
more than the great general conceptions of the prophecy will 
be realised, for these, after all, make up the prophecy. 

Or, if a great general principle be expressed, capable of 
several fulfilments, that fulfilment which took place in Old 
Testament times will be in terms of the Old Testament 
economy, and that which will take place in New Testament 
times will be according to the spirit and principles of 




FROM our analysis of the poetical elements in the prophetical 
style, we found that it would not be wise to leap at once to 
the conclusion that only the main ideas underlying the 
poetical imagery need be expected to be realised in the 
fulfilment. The wiser and more reverent as well as more 
scientific method is to assert that along with the chief ideas, 
perhaps also some, or even much, of the formal details may 
be fulfilled. For these details are always ways of realising 
the ideas ; and as they occurred to the prophet, it is quite 
possible that the ideas might really fulfil themselves in these 
precise forms. Besides, it is extremely difficult for us to say 
beforehand what are the essential elements of any prediction 
which we may expect to be realised, and what are mere 
adventitious incidents which must, in the fulfilment, be 
worked off and cast away. It is therefore better to keep 
our minds open, and not foreclose inquiry. And perhaps 
we should hold that, if any prediction has been found to 
have been fulfilled in the precise, concrete way predicted, as 
for example when Christ did enter Jerusalem, riding upon 
an ass, exactly as Zechariah had foretold, this precise detail 
ought to be considered of the essence of the prediction. 
This seems more reasonable than to say that Zechariah's 
prediction meant no more than that the Messiah should be 
lowly and peaceful, and that the symbolical act of riding 
upon an ass was merely the form in which the prophet 


embodied the idea of his prediction, which would have been 
fulfilled in the character of the Messiah quite absolutely, 
although this act of entering Jerusalem had never taken 
place in His history. 

And, further, as it is wise to take up a position of re- 
serve, and not commit ourselves to any such principle as 
that only general ideas may be expected to be fulfilled, so 
it seems a fair thing, when considering any one prophecy, 
to keep before us the general scope of the Old Testament 
beliefs, in order to see whether, from this general scope, we 
may not draw some warrant to expect fulfilment in the 
precise form in which parts at least of the prophecy were 
expressed. For example, in connection with Isaiah's pre- 
diction of the complete ascendency of man over the lower 
creation in the renewed world, it will be of great advantage 
to inquire what the general representations of Scripture are 
regarding man's relation to the lower world. If we find the 
uniform representation to be that man's sin lost him the 
ascendency over the creatures natural to his position, then 
it will seem credible that his restoration to righteousness will 
bring with it the restoration of his lost supremacy. We 
ought to be very far from advocating a rigid and cast-iron 
uniformity of sentiment among the writers of the Old 
Testament, and of forcing one prophet into the Procrustes 
bed of another ; but there is general harmony among them, 
one cast of doctrine being common to them all. They are 
all labouring on one temple of truth ; and the work of one 
helps us largely to explain the work of another. Holding 
these general principles, we shall be open to light from every 
quarter. And if, as recommended in the first instance, we 
detach the general ideas from the prophecy, and assure 
ourselves that we shall at least find them in the fulfilment, 
we can afford to make the rest matter of unexcited, and, 
if necessary, pretty prolonged investigation. 

A very large portion of the poetry of the prophetical 


writers is drawn from nature. An attempt has been made to 
elevate some parts of this poetry into a distinct and more 
exalted category, to which the name of natural symbolism 
has been given. This symbolism of nature has been con- 
sidered a species of hieroglyphic writing employed by the 
prophets, the key to which has to be sought in Scripture ; 
and this key, when found, enables one to read off the mean- 
ing of any prophecy, such as the Apocalypse, for example, 
as one would ' any ordinary writing.' I thought it enough 
to deny the existence of any such symbolism, since its 
advocates advance in its behalf nothing that deserves the 
name of proof. But something more definite than mere 
denial is perhaps required. So I shall now add a little 
more on the subject. The question is : How shall we in- 
terpret those passages in the prophets where, in connection 
with man's judgment or salvation, great calamities or great 
blessings are represented as falling also on the material 
world and the irrational creatures ? To make the question 
plain, let me quote some passages of both kinds. For 
instance, Amos says : 

" The Lord shall roar from Zion, 

And utter His voice from Jerusalem ; 

And the pastures of the shepherds shall mourn, 

And the top of Carmel shall wither." l 

And Hosea similarly declares Jehovah's judgment which is 

already imminent : 

" Therefore the land shall mourn, 
And every one that dwelleth therein shall languish, 
With the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven ; 
Yea, the fishes of the sea also shall be swept away." 2 

Micah thus describes the effect of God's wrath : 
" The mountains shall be molten under Him, 
And the valleys shall be cleft, as wax before the fire, 

1 Amos I 2 . 2 Hos. 4 3 . 


And as the waters that are poured over a precipice. 
For the transgression of Judah is all this, 
And for the sins of the house of Israel." l 

We may also cite one passage from the Apocalypse, 
where the sixth seal opens the initial terrors of the end, 
the description being borrowed partly from Isaiah and partly 
from Joel : " The sun became black as sackcloth of hair, 
and the moon became as blood ; and the kings of the earth 
and the great men hid themselves in the dens and in the 
rocks of the mountains from the face of Him that sitteth 
on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb." 2 These 
passages may suffice to show Nature's participation in the 
judgments that fall on man. A few on the other side will 
show her participation in the blessings of his salvation. 
When Israel is restored, Amos says : 

" Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, 
That the ploughman shall overtake the reaper, 
And the treader of grapes him that soweth the seed ; 
And the mountains shall drop sweet wine." 3 

And Joel similarly declares : 

" It shall come to pass in that day, 
That the mountains shall drop down new wine, 
And the hills shall flow with milk, 
And all the brooks of Judah shall flow with water." 4 

And Isaiah : 

" The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for 


And the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. . . . 
No lion shall be there, 
Nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon 
It shall not be found there ; 
But the redeemed shall walk there." 5 

1 Mic. I 2 . 2 Rev. 6 12 . s Amos 9". 

4 Joel 3 18 . 6 Isa. 35. 


And in Eev. 2 1 5 it is said: "And He that sat on the 
throne said, Behold, I make all things new." 

Now, assuming, as we have done, that it is the real 
natural objects, sun, earth, and the like, and the real living 
creatures, lions, calves, fishes, etc., that are here spoken of, 
and not men and human things under these names, what is 
the explanation of their being so intimately concerned with 
the judgment or the salvation of man ? Now, it is probable 
that a number of things may combine, or contribute, to 
explain this prophetic language. 

For example, some of it may be explained from the 
sympathy of nature with God, which the poet deeply felt. 
God made nature, and, having made it, He must have thrown 
Himself into it. The pulsation of the divine heart, the 
drawing of the divine breath, must be felt in every atom of 
the universe. Much more must the working of the divine 
emotions of wrath and love. Now, the Old Testament writers 
being poets, give life to the earth and nature. To them this 
earth is a sentient creature. They appeal to it. " earth, 
earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord. 1 Hear, heavens, 
and give ear, earth, for the Lord hath spoken: I have 
nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled 
against me. 2 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth 
rejoice ; let the sea roar, and let all the trees of the wood 
rejoice before the Lord : for He cometh to judge the earth, 
and the peoples in His truth." 3 The earth is sensitive and 
sympathetic. It can enter into all the moods of God. And 
as, in a family, the father's mood, whether of anger or 
of grace, is reflected immediately in shadow or in joy 
upon the children's faces, so all Nature shows upon her 
countenance a correspondence with the moods of her Creator. 
She mourns, or rejoices, as He is angry, or gracious. 

Again, a certain amount of the imagery in question 
may be due to a feeling on the poet's part of Nature's 

1 Jer. 22 29 . 2 Isa. I 2 . 3 Ps. 96 11 ' 13 . 


sympathy with man, so that she mourns in his afflictions 
and rejoices in his joy. And even more may be due to that 
reflection of our own feelings, which we throw at all times 
over Nature. When a gloom oppresses our own minds, the 
same gloom somehow seems to envelop all things about us ; 
as, on the contrary, the sunshine of our own feelings lights 
up everything else. And when the prophet beheld or con- 
ceived his people, or the kingdom of God, or his brethren 
of mankind, dissolving under the awful wrath of God, the 
catastrophe reflected itself to him also in nature, and the 
whole system of things seemed breaking up in terrible 
throes and convulsions. Such explanations as these would 
allow of only subjective truth to these pictures of natural 
confusion or natural restitution. But it is certain' that, in 
this way, justice would not be done to many parts of 
Scripture. And, besides, this is left unexplained, why we 
do take Nature into our confidence, when glad or sorrowful ; 
and why she is so intimately connected with us that our 
sorrow immediately envelops her in gloom, and our gladness 
immediately brightens her up. It is probably this very con- 
nection which lies at the root of the prophetical pictures 
and explains them ; and if this be the case, it is also 
probable that Nature, being one with man, will at last 
share both in his judgment and his salvation; and thus these 
prophetic delineations will receive objective verification. 

The last point raises the question, What does Scripture 
teach regarding the nature of the connection between the 
earth and man ? And the former point raises the question, 
What does Scripture teach of the nature of the relation 
between the world and God ? What kind of constitution, 
according to Scripture, is the constitution of the universe ? 
Is it, as Scripture regards it, a physical or a moral constitu- 
tion ? The two questions run somewhat into one another, 
and the second may receive an answer if we look for a 
little at the first. The Old Testament has a consistent 


testimony to bear on this question throughout. But this 
testimony is given in great fulness in several passages, such 
as Gen. 1, Ps. 104, and Ps. 8. 

The statement with which the history of the world 
commences is : " In the beginning God created the heavens 
and the earth," i.e. the world or the universe. To the 
Hebrew mind, however, such a conception of the universe 
as we have now attained could not occur. To his mind 
the earth was the world, and the visible heavens were closely 
connected with it. Other sidereal systems were unknown ; 
the world, or the heavens and the earth, was simply the 
earth with its visible heavens. These introductory words 
in Genesis, then, state that the world, the heavens and the 
earth, began to exist, and began through God's creating them. 

Again, the statement that " the earth was without form, 
and void ; and darkness was upon the face of the deep : and 
the Spirit of God brooded upon the face of the waters," 
contains two points first, the form in which the heavens 
and the earth were, when created, was a watery chaos. 
A great ocean enveloped the solid parts of creation ; and the 
surface of this primary ocean was what appeared. When we 
use the term ' chaos,' we must not so use it as to imply that 
the elements of creation, the solid and the fluid, were confused 
together. The solid were covered with an abyss, or expanse 
of waters. Second, over this ocean of water the Spirit 
of God, the Spirit of life and order, presided, educing 
life out of it. This life-giving Spirit of God was in no way 
involved in the watery chaos. He brooded over it, as the 
bird does over the egg, with vital efficacy. Thus the intro- 
ductory statement covers the first two verses : " In the 
beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the 
earth was without form, and void ; and darkness was upon 
the face of the deep : and the Spirit of God brooded upon the 
face of the waters." Others make the connection somewhat 
different : " In the beginning, when God created the heavens 


and the earth, the earth was without form," etc. At all events, 
the representation of Scripture is that the newly-created 
world was enveloped in an ocean of water; and, of course, 
water means water not a mixture of solids with water- 
not mud. This is verified by the parallel passage in Ps. 104 : 

" He based the earth upon her foundations, 
That she should not be removed for ever. 
Thou coveredst her with the deep as with a garment ; 
The waters stood above the mountains." 

There was no confusion of the solid and the liquid elements ; 
the waters enveloped the solid earth, standing even above 
the mountains. But there is an older parallel to Gen. 1 
than Ps. 104. The cosmogony of Gen. 1 is not the peculiar 
possession of the Hebrew people ; it is a heritage of other 
Semitic nations. Fragments of a similar system have been 
discovered in the clay tablets of Assyria. Unfortunately 
only those processes coming under the first and fourth 
creative days have been discovered. But enough remains 
to confirm the view that the first state of the created world 
was regarded as a chaos of waters involved in darkness : 

" When above the heavens were not yet named " 
(i.e. did not exist as a distinct province of the world), 
" And below, the earth was without a name, 
The limitless abyss was their generator, 
And the chaotic sea she who produced them all." 

Consequently those harmonists of science and Bible 
creation who introduce a great space between vv. 1 - 2 , and 
consider the words, "and the earth was without form, and 
void ; and darkness was upon the face of the deep," to refer 
to some cataclysm comparatively recent, do so not only at 
the expense of the Hebrew language, but at the expense of 
the general testimony of Scripture and of historical tradition 
among; the Semitic nations. 


Such being the primary state of chaos in which the world 
was when created in the beginning, the passage goes on to 
show how order and life were educed out of this disorder. 
This process consists of six successive steps, made in as many 
days. Each result is regarded as the effect of a voluntary, 
conscious act of God, who said, " Let there be," and there was. 
We ought perhaps to regard these results as all operations of 
God's Spirit of life and order that was described as brooding 
over the primary ocean. At all events, the results are all dis- 
tinct effects of the creative will of God directed to the particular 
production of each of them. Of these ' Let there be's ' there are 
a perfect number, namely, seven. The six steps are probably 
divisible into two sets of three each, the former referring 
more to inanimate things, and the second more to things 
having life. But this is of less importance. 

The first step was the creation of light : "God said, Let 
there be light : and there was light " the first day. Light 
and darkness are often regarded as distinct things in the 
Old Testament. In Isaiah, Jehovah says : " I make light and 
create darkness." l And Job is asked : 

" Where is the way where light dwelleth ? 
And as for darkness, where is the place thereof, 
That thou shouldst go to the bounds thereof, 
And know the path to the house thereof ? " 2 

The second step was the creation of the firmament dividing 
between the waters enveloping the earth and the waters of 
the heavens. The firmament is regarded here as a solid 
expanse or dome, described elsewhere as being strong as a 
molten mirror. 3 Through this solid dome there is a channel 
cut for the rain-floods which pour down from on high upon 
the earth. 4 Elsewhere this dome is described as reposing its 
circular rim upon the earth, or the great ocean circumambient 

1 Isa. 45?. 2 Job 38 19 . 

3 Job 37 1S . 4 Job 38 25 . 


of the earth. 1 The description is entirely ocular ; the firma- 
ment is nothing but an illusion of the eye. This was the 
work of the second day. That the firmament is regarded as 
a solid expanse is manifest, because it is distinctly said to 
divide between the waters above and below it. When 
creation arose, the whole was covered with one vast ocean. 
Heaven and earth were not yet separated ; the complex 
whole was not yet divided. This division was effected by 
the creation of the firmament which divided the waters into 
two oceans, one a heavenly ocean above the firmament, the 
other, an earthly ocean below it. 

In Ps. 104 the operations of these two days are 
combined together: 

" Lord, Thou art very great ; 
Thou art clothed with honour and majesty : 
Who coverest Thyself with light as with a garment ; 
Who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain ; 
Who layeth the beams of His chambers in the waters ; 
Who maketh the clouds His chariot ; 
Who walketh upon the wings of the wind." 

God is light, it is His garment. Where He is, it must 
be. It is the first of the works of God. Light is the first 
condition of order, of the existence of things distinct from 
one another, as in the beautiful passage in Job where the 
effect of the dawn upon the earth, covered with the darkness 
of night, is compared to the effect of the seal impressed upon 
the clay, causing all things to stand out in clear-cut dis- 
tinctness. 2 But in Scripture light is the first step in 
moral order, it is almost a moral agent. In that same 
passage of Job, it is represented as seizing the corners of 
the covering of the earth, and shaking the wicked out of 
it. The creation of light, therefore, was the first great step 
in the formation of an orderly, moral world. 

1 Job 26. - Job S3 14 . 


The next step, on the third day, was the removal of the 
ocean from the earth's surface, the division of its face into 
seas and dry land, and the production of vegetation. Now, 
here again it is of the utmost consequence to be true to 
the author's language. " The dry land He called earth, and 
the waters He called seas," i.e. the seas we see with our eyes, 
and which the author saw with his. Seas really mean 
what we so call, and so does dry land. Seas do not mean 
mud in which 

" Dragons of the prime 
Tore each other in their slime." 

Further, his division of vegetation into classes (1) herbs; 
(2) plants, i.e. all vegetation, such as grasses, grains, flax, 
etc. ; and (3) fruit trees, shows that what he describes is 
in his view what we call the vegetable kingdom in all its 
forms. He had no knowledge of an age of cryptogamous 
plants. It is not the world under the surface that he 
describes, but the world as it appeared to his eyes. What 
the author describes the origin of is the world as he knew it, 
with its divisions of seas and dry land. This state of creation 
is beautifully described in Ps. 104 : 

" Thou coveredst it with the deep as with a garment ; 
The waters stood above the mountains. 
At Thy rebuke they fled ; 
At Thy voice of thunder they hasted away. 
The mountains rise up, the valleys go down, 
Unto the place which Thou hast founded for them. 
Thou hast set a bound that they may not pass over ; 
That they turn not again to cover the earth." 

And then the production of vegetation is described as due to 
springs and rain : 

" He sendeth the springs into the valleys, 
Which run among the mountains. 


He watereth the hills from His chambers ; 

The earth is satisfied with the fruit of Thy works. 

He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, 

And herb for the service of man ; 

That he may bring forth food out of the earth : 

And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, 

And oil to make his face shine, 

And bread which strengtheneth man's heart." 

This Psalm furnishes a singularly beautiful as well as 
thoughtful commentary on the history of creation, casting 
light on the order as well as on the teleology of the separate 
steps. The goal set before the Creator is an orderly con- 
stitution, where living creatures and moral beings are to 
subsist. The first condition of this order is light ; the next 
is the division between the earth and the heavens ; and the 
third is the stable equilibrium of the elements of the earth, 
land and water ; and the production of nourishment for the 
creatures to be placed upon it. 

The fourth step, the first of the second series of three, is 
the creation of the heavenly bodies, sun, moon, and stars, and 
the placing of them in the firmament of the heavens, to rule 
the day and the night, and to be for signs and for seasons, 
and for days and for years, and to give light upon the 
earth. The creation of the luminaries on the fourth day 
corresponds to the creation of light on the first day. This 
has always been considered one of the most remarkable points 
in this cosmogony, remarkable, because light is conceived as 
in some sense independent of the heavenly bodies, and be- 
cause the creation of these bodies is so far down in the scale. 
These things are remarkable, although to call them an antici- 
pation of scientific theories of light is perhaps too much. It 
is very singular that in the Assyrian cosmogony the origin 
of the heavenly bodies appears to occupy a place equally far 
down in the series. This, however, can readily be explained 


so far as that cosmogony is concerned. The first half of the 
series concerns itself with inanimate things ; the second half 
with the world of life. The heavenly bodies were considered 
animated, or at all events they were connected with certain 
gods, which they either were, or represented. Hence they 
introduce the second series, that of living beings. This being 
so, the Hebrew writer has preserved the original order, as 
it came to his hand, though, of course, he has removed all 
traces of false worship. But though this coincidence between 
the two cosmogonies be very remarkable, the place of the 
heavenly luminaries at the threshold of life, especially moral 
life, is most suitable. Throughout the passage, and indeed 
throughout Old Testament Scripture, the earth is virtually 
the universe ; the heavens are part of it. They belong to the 
earth, and are estimated only as they subserve its interests. 
So here the heavenly bodies do not come into consideration, 
except in so far as they are connected with orderly life 
upon the earth. The 104th Psalm again furnishes the 
commentary : 

" He appointed the moon for seasons ; 
And the sun knoweth his going down. 
Thou makest darkness, and it is night : 
Wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth. 
The sun ariseth, they gather themselves together, 
And lay themselves down in their dens. 
Man goeth forth unto his work 
And to his labour until the evening. 
Lord, how manifold are Thy works ! 
In wisdom hast Thou made them all." 

The heavenly bodies come into consideration here simply 
as regulating the orderly, and especially the moral life of 
man upon the earth. They are for signs and for seasons 
probably religious seasons, the new moon, and full moon 
and for days and for years. Consequently, they are repre- 


sented as appointed immediately before the dawn of animated 

It is to be noticed that the fifth day was the creation of 
all marine creatures, and of birds. Let the waters bring 
forth ; now, waters always mean waters. God blessed them, 
and said, " Be fruitful, and fill the waters in the seas." There 
is no reference to amphibians great reptiles leading a 
double existence. Then the sixth day was the creation of 
the terrestrial fauna, living creatures, beasts of the field, 
cattle, etc., i.e. all creatures living on dry land. And, finally, 
the creation of man, towards which the whole previous pro- 
gression was moving. The creation of man takes place in a 
way different from that of the other creatures. In regard to 
them God said, " Let the earth bring forth grass," " Let the 
waters bring forth abundantly the living creature, and let 
the earth bring forth the living creature after its kind, 
cattle, and the creeping thing, and beasts of the earth." In 
regard to the creation of man, the Lord deliberates with 
Himself. Man is the immediate work of God's own hand, 
and is made in the image of God, a person, self-conscious, 
with a moral being, and a spiritual nature. 

Finally, having completed His work of creation, God 
rested. He ceased working, and He looked with satisfaction 
upon the work of His hand ; and He brought man, made in His 
image, into the fellowship of His rest. The creation attains 
its before-appointed end in the fellowship of man and God, 
in the covenant communion, the sign and seal of which is 
the Sabbath. It is important to notice this. The passage 
is not an abstract account of creation. It is an introduction 
to that covenant fellowship which man has with God in the 
rest of the Sabbath. Creation is a sphere for this fellowship 
of man and God, this fellowship was the goal of it, and 
there lay thus in creation itself a prophecy of the end of 
that which should be in the final perfection. This is the 
widest Messianic conception, reflected again in l\s. 8. 


This history of creation is full of beauty. It has an un- 
paralleled dignity and simplicity, a profound and pure theism, 
and a singular wisdom and insight into nature as a moral 
constitution, all of whose parts subserve the higher moral 
and religious life of man. It also shows a fine appreciation of 
the difference between the higher and the lower scales of being, 
and represents them as coming into existence in a gradual 
manner, and in an ascending scale. But is there anything to 
be called science in it further than this ? Is it a real account 
of how things actually came about, in any other sense than 
that it is a wise glimpse into things, now that they actually 
exist, and a clear appreciation of what is higher and lower 
in the scale of life, and how each part of nature subserves 
the interests of that part which is above it ? Does not the 
simple and beautiful teleology of the 104th Psalm cast light 
on the order of .steps observed ? We perceive that the 
scheme is made up, first, of a few great antitheses that strike 
the eye, light and darkness, earth and heaven, dry land and 
water. Then there is the preparation for life, the vegetation 
upon the earth ; then the preparation for moral and religious 
life, for that orderly, moral constitution of things which was 
aimed at from the beginning, the appointing of the heavenly 
bodies to rule the day and the night, to regulate the great 
religious seasons, and the fixed terms of life, and man's moral 
existence. And, finally, the successive creations of all the 
various orders of life: (1) the aquatic creatures and birds; 
(2) then the terrestrial creatures ; (3) and, lastly, man, in 
whom God's work of creation returned as it were to God 
Himself, and He met His own work in fellowship. 

The division into six days, or steps, has been a cause of 
much conflict of opinion. To bring the creative process into 
harmony with science, it has been thought necessary to con- 
sider these days to be seons, vast periods of time. There can 
be no doubt that the conception of the Hebrew writer is 
that the clays were natural days, bounded by dawn and dark- 


ness. The Creator's week of work was identical with that 
of man. The writer has imposed this conception upon the 
Creator's operations. The seventh day, on which God rested, 
is identical with the day on which man rests, not symbolical 
or typical of it ; for it is said, " God blessed the seventh day, 
and sanctified it ; because in it He rested from all His work." 
The meaning of D3B> might be merely that on the seventh day 
God ceased from working. But in Ex. 20 11 another word is 
used (CW) which does not mean to cease, but to repose. Hence 
the meaning must be : on it, that is, during it, God reposed. 

It is remarkable that in the Assyrian cosmogony this 
division into days does not appear. But it is more remark- 
able that, in the form of the Decalogue given in Deuteronomy, 
the obligation to keep the Fourth Commandment is not 
grounded on this sixfold division of the Creator's work, but 
on the fact that He redeemed His people from Egypt. We 
must, no doubt, suppose that the commandments, as written 
on the two Tables, were less extensive than the form in 
which we now have them in Exodus and Deuteronomy. The 
reasons given for the keeping of the commandments are prob- 
ably later, for they are various. Further, the division into 
days has no significance in Ps. 104. It is only in Exodus 
that we find the expression " for in six days the Lord made 
heaven and earth." This statement in Exodus is doubt- 
less a later addition, since the division into days is thereby 
made to subserve the interests of the Sabbath. But in all 
probability we should regard the six-day division here as 
belonging to the orderly conception of the author. He has 
thrown the great operations of the Creator into this con- 
ception of a week of work. The days seem no essential part 
of the cosmogony, except as part of a formal disposing of the 
divine operations under the conception of a week. The 
bearing on the Sabbath, of course, still remains ; for God 
worked and rested, and so man is to labour and rest with 
God in His covenant communion of which the Sabbath is 


the sign. It may seem that, by making the sixfold division 
merely ideal, we lose the ground for the Sabbath. I suspect 
the difficulty belongs to all theories. I suspect science will 
not concede any sixfold division in which there is any dis- 
tinction of the periods from one another. The sixfold 
division is ideal in any circumstances. But we have still 
left the division of work and rest; and then the general 
bearing on the Sabbath as a rest, if not as a rest in the 
proportion of one to six, also remains. 

But, leaving such details as these, I desire to point out that 
creation, so far as Scripture deals with it, is a unity of which 
man is the head. Creation began and progressed towards him, 
and after him nothing was created. In the Old Testament, 
the universe is virtually the earth, the world of mankind, the 
visible system of things of which man is the head ; as it is 
expressed in the 8th Psalm, " What is man ! Thou hast made 
him a little lower than the angels ; Thou hast crowned him 
with glory and honour, and set him over the work of Thy 

The great conception of the Old Testament is that the 
world is a moral constitution. Behind the physical world is 
God, a free, conscious, moral being ; on this side of it, and 
over it, is man, another free, moral being. The world is but 
the means of their intercourse. It is this moral character 
of its whole constitution, which explains how the external 
world is always drawn into the relations of God and man, 
and reflects these relations according as they are normal or 
disturbed, rejoicing and blossoming like the rose in man's 
redemption, and falling into dissolution in man's destruction 
under God's wrath. 



TYPOLOGY is a species of prophecy. But this species of 
prophecy occurs even in nature. Hence, before entering on 
any examination of typology in Scripture, we must first 
turn our attention to what has been called, and rightly 
called, typology in nature. 

Of this perhaps three things may be said : first, that 
certain forms, that is, certain clusters or combinations of 
peculiarities, are greatly prevalent in nature, appearing in 
very diverse spheres ; second, that the degree in which these 
forms or combinations of peculiarities appear is very different 
in different spheres ; and third, that the degrees of develop- 
ment in which such forms appear are not arbitrary or 
promiscuous, but progressive. 

The word type means a stroke or stamp, that is, a peculiar 
and recognisable form impressed on things. There is in such 
a stamp or form an idea ; thus there is the idea of a lateral 
organ in the fore part of the body. This idea is realised in 
the fin of a fish. It .is also realised in the foreleg of an 
animal ; and, finally, in the arm of a man. These are all 
spheres in which this idea is exhibited ; and this idea of such 
an organ, an organ of this peculiar kind, is a type. Now, what 
is most interesting about such a type is not that it is found 
in several spheres, though that is interesting ; nor yet that it 
is found in various degrees or stages of advancement towards 
what can easily be seen to be the perfection of the form, or the 
complete exhibition of the idea, as the arm of a man is evidently 



a much more perfect instrument of the kind than the fin of a 
fish, though this is also interesting, the most interesting 
thing about these types is that the type contains a kind of 
vitality in it, by which it advances steadily from a less degree 
of perfection to greater and greater degrees of perfection. It 
grows. The degree of its development can be measured by 
time. A more complete realising of the idea of the type 
which is the final cause of the combination, will never be 
found to precede in time a less complete realising of it. 

It seems nature's way to work typically, to move along 
on certain forms, and to move always from less to more. A 
perfect form, found anywhere, may be held to imply an 
antecedent imperfect form. It is not God's way to introduce 
any great work suddenly. When any design of His is realised, 
it is manifest that He has been from the beginning moving 
toward this ; and in many cases the several movements can be 
traced. His purposes are not realised all at once. It is not 
that any attempt of His fails, but that He attempts but little 
at a time. His idea cannot grow, but He who sees the end 
from the beginning seems under some law to Himself to 
exhibit the beginning growing into the perfection of the end. 
If one may say so, evolution, development, is beautiful to 
Him, as He has made it beautiful to us. To show us the 
perfect at once, affects us little. To see the imperfect 
gradually filling out, and rounding into the complete, is 
grateful to our minds. Is it also pleasant to His ? Or, to 
Him who sees all at once, can growth be anything ? Is 
the difference between the oak expanding through centuries 
and the acorn appreciable to Him ? What He is who 
works, we cannot know. But we can know, in some degree, 
what and how He works. And we see that, as influences, 
impressed by us on the elements which He has made, 
propagate themselves by widening waves and pulsations, so 
His own arts advance from less to more continually. Thus 
God's manifestations are not sudden. What He will accom- 


plish at the last, He accomplishes first on a smaller scale. 
The way of the Lord is always typified. It exhibits a 
struggle towards complete embodiment, rising as it were 
through hindrances into forms imperfect, until, by succession 
and victorious advancement, it reaches perfection. 

It is now known that the great variety in God's works 
is caused, not so much by the multitude of separate things 
which He has made, as by a very great diversity in the 
degree of embodiment of a few fundamental thoughts. Crea- 
tion rose gradually up to man, and even the separate organs 
of man are typified in many imperfect shapes, before they 
reach the human. The fin of a whale is a stage in the 
development of the arm of a man. The brain of a fish 
is identical with one stage of growth of the human brain. 
" Nature," says a well-known writer, " in constructing this 
curious organ in man, first lays down a grooved cord, as 
the carpenter lays down the keel of his vessel ; and on 
this narrow base the perfect brain, as month after month 
passes by, is gradually built up, like the vessel from the 
keel. First, it grows up into a brain closely resembling 
that of a fish ; a few additions more impart the perfect 
appearance of the brain of a bird ; it then develops into a 
brain exceedingly like that of a mammiferous quadruped ; 
and, finally, expanding atop and spreading out its deeply 
corrugated lobes till it projects widely over the base, it 
assumes its unique character as a human brain. Eadically 
such at the first, it passes through all the inferior forms, 
from that of the fish upwards, as if each man were in 
himself not the microcosm of the old fanciful philosopher, 
but something greatly more wonderful, a compendium of 
all animated nature, and of kin to every creature that 
lives." Or, as another writer expresses it : " All the parts 
and organs of man had been sketched out in anticipation, 
so to speak, in the inferior animals; and the recognition 
of an ideal exemplar in the vertebrated animals proves 


that the knowledge of such a being as man must have 
existed, before man appeared. For the divine mind which 
planned the archetype also foreknew all its modifications. 
The archetypal idea was manifested in the flesh long prior 
to the existence of those animal species that actually 
exemplify it. To what natural laws or secondary causes 
the orderly succession and progression of such organic 
phenomena may have been committed, we are yet ignorant. 
But if, without derogation of the divine power, we may 
conceive the existence of such ministers, and personify 
them by the term Nature, we learn from the past history 
of our globe that she has advanced with slow and steady 
steps, guided by the archetypal light, amidst the wreck of 
worlds, from the first embodiment of the vertebrate idea 
under its old ichthyic vestment, until it became arrayed in 
the glorious garb of the human form." 

Now, it is certainly to be expected, when one con- 
siders that the same God is the author both of the 
scheme of nature and of grace, and remembers the many 
analogies of other kinds which the two schemes exhibit, 
that there will be an analogy here also. For this is one 
of the broadest and most characteristic of God's ways, to 
move up through imperfect forms to. that which is perfect. 
The man grows from the child. The tree is cast into the 
ground a seed. The light shineth more and more unto 
the perfect day. We should wonder if God's perfect king- 
dom and glory did not first appear dim and in broken 
outline, and gradually increase in clearness and sharpness 
of contour, till it stood out, luminous and defined, as the 
sun in the sky. And this expectation of a typology in 
religion will not be interfered with by any difference of 
opinion as to the relation of religion to nature. Indeed, 
seeing it is certain human conceptions that we are speaking 
about, it will not be of consequence should you conclude 
that there is no real object that answers to them, just as 


the fact of a progress in nature from less to greater per- 
fection remains, whether you consider this progress to be 
caused by God, or due to something else. 

Those who deny that there is any specific distinction 
between the sphere of revelation and nature, holding that 
they are not two schemes, but only parts of one scheme and 
specifically the same, must on their own ground be all the 
readier to admit a typology in religion, or in what is called 
revelation, seeing it unquestionably exists in nature, which, 
according to them, is specifically the same as revelation. 
Those, again, who believe revelation or grace to be a thing 
specifically distinct from nature, will admit a typology in 
the one, partly because they find it in the other. For, 
though grace be specifically distinct from nature, they have 
one author; and He may be supposed to work on the same 
methods, though He is not doing the same thing, grace 
being also His work and in addition to nature, though not 
necessarily diverse from nature. Moreover, such men will 
admit a typology because it is clearly seen to be the method 
of revelation. Thus, on all hands, a typology in revelation 
will be admitted to be probable. 

So great a thing as Christianity, so wonderful a mani- 
festation as Christ, wonderful on any scheme or explana- 
tion of His life, very wonderful if He was really what 
apostles and evangelists describe Him to have been ; almost 
more wonderful if He was not this, but was such as to 
cause men to imagine Him to be so ; if, without being histor- 
ically such as He is spoken of, He both raised such a 
conception as is embodied in His historic life, and led His 
contemporaries, and so many since, to believe in that historic 
life, so wonderful a manifestation as Christ, whatever be 
the true conception of Him, must have had prefigurements, 
very numerous and going back to the most ancient days. 
If He was, in truth, a manifestation of God in human 
flesh, then so great a thing in the life of God, if we may 


so speak, must have had many antecedent lesser mani- 
festations. If Christ was not this, but only a manifestation 
of man, a flower among the many flowers of humanity, or 
rather one flower appearing at last on that melancholy 
aloe, barren for so many millenniums, the stock of man- 
kind, even then He cannot have come unheralded. There 
must have been seen many a time, on this barren stock, 
an effort, as it were, to flower, the putting out of energies, 
and the gathering together of forces, and the formation of 
what seemed going to be an efflorescence, though native 
vigour was wanting to mature it, and it came to nought. 
Or even if He were less than this, no real thing at all, 
but only a conception, or only the imperfect cause of a 
perfect conception, then still both this cause and this con- 
ception, on a lower form, must often have appeared before. 
And so the prophet Micah speaks : " Thou, Bethlehem 
Ephratah, out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that 
is to be ruler in Israel ; whose goings forth have been 
from of old, from everlasting." 1 And the writers of the 
Old Testament certainly consider themselves in the midst 
of things not destined to abide, but waxing old and ready 
to perish, and they look forward to the future as something 
greatly more glorious that what was present. "Arise, 
shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord 
has risen upon thee, . . . the Gentiles shall come to thy 
light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising," is the 
language with which the prophet addresses the Church of 
the latter days. 

And no less certainly do the writers of the New Testa- 
ment consider their dispensation as the realising of all that 
towards which the Old had been moving. There was a goal 
before the Old, and it had been reached in the New. If 
perfection had been by the Levitical priesthood, 2 then another 
priest would not have been spoken of. Christ is the end of 
1 Mic. 5 2 . 2 Heb. 7 11 . 


the law, no doubt here termination, though, if you say ' end ' 
in the sense of final cause, you make it even more emphatic. 
He is then the end purposed of old " for righteousness to 
every one that believeth." x " Think not that I am come to 
destroy the law, or the prophets : I came not to destroy, 
but to fulfil." 2 The mystery which hath been hid from 
ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to 
His saints, is Christ, " who verily was foreordained before 
the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last 
days for you." 3 The divine idea was Christianity. Christ 
brought it in, through many degrees of realisation. He pre- 
figured the whole of it, and each of its parts. It is the 
teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews, that the Old Testa- 
ment dispensation was imperfect, and that the New dispen- 
sation is perfect, the one being the perfection of the things 
such as revelation, and atonement in all its elements 
which in the other were imperfect. Thus, in general, there 
can be no doubt that we can speak of a typology in the 
dispensations of religion. There are certain forms common 
to them all, and these forms rise through various degrees 
of completeness, till they are perfect in the last. 

Now, this is the kind of typology found in nature, and 
it is certainly also found in the dispensations of revelation. 
These are so related to one another, that, while they all 
embody the same elements or combinations, but varying in 
degree, the earlier embodies them in a degree inferior to the 
later. But the question here rises : Is this the kind of 
typology that Scripture itself says exists, or that writers 
on typology say exists ? Perhaps the answer to that ques- 
tion would be best furnished by an inquiry into the kind 
of imperfection that exists in the earlier dispensation. There 
will, no doubt, exist reasons in God's mind for that law, 
which He seems to observe, of beginning things small, and 
gradually, through advance of time, leading them up to 

1 Rom. 10 4 . 2 Matt. 5 17 . 3 Rom. 16 25f -, 1 Pet. 1=. 


perfection. In the external world, this process allows of 
great variety, and variety on the basis of a few forms, 
diversity and diversity in unity, both of which things are 
pleasing to the mind. It likewise exhibits growth, which 
is also very pleasing to the mind, and there may be other 
hidden reasons. 

In revelation, however, this other reason can be seen, 
namely, the state of mind of those to whom the revelation 
was made. They were ignorant, and could not take in all 
the truth at once. It had both to be broken down to 
them and administered in fragments, and it had to be cleared 
of its abstractness, or clothed in some material form. God 
spake unto the fathers bit by bit (TroX-u/ze/aw?) and in divers 
forms (vroXfT/joTra)?), which I suppose may refer to the modes 
of the things spoken as well as to the modes of speaking 
them. They were robed in manifold, many-coloured gar- 
ments : in great acts of redemption, like the deliverance 
from Egypt, or of judgment as the Flood ; in great leaders 
and commanders of the people, like Moses and David; in 
great conflicts with the heathen, that is, with what was not 
the Church, and such like. God taught the world in its 
infancy by signs and pictures, and ideas embodied as men, 
or creatures, or things. Like early writing among men them- 
selves, God's early revelation was pictorial. The dispensa- 
tions antecedent to Christianity are so many picture-books, 
great systems of hieroglyphs, facts, things, and men. 

What seems most characteristic of the old dispensation is 
the embodiment of all its truths. These truths were not taught ; 
they were acted. They were not received ; they were again 
acted. God chose, elected Abraham ; and He took him away 
from among the people about him, and separated him, putting 
him into a strange land. Abraham believed God, became 
God's, renounced the life of men, left the world, and ceased 
to lead its life. God redeemed Israel, and actually brought 
them up out of Egypt. They were redeemed, and they neither 


felt the taskmaster's chains and stripes, nor heard hig voice 
any more. Of course, Abraham's call was a real religious 
thing, and so was Israel's redemption. These were not events 
in God's providence, but acts of God's grace. Abraham did 
not settle in Canaan, as an emigrant settles in Australia. 
Nor did Israel come up out of Egypt, merely as an oppressed 
nationality. All these were great religious crises ; and they 
differed from such things now in this, that they were also 
embodied and exhibited on the platform of history, as real, 
outward transactions. They were, as we say, also presented 

This symbolical presentation of the truth, together, of 
course, with the gradual revelation of it, its presentation 
piecemeal, forms the real distinction between the two dis- 
pensations, and lays the foundation for a typology. The 
imperfection of the old lies chiefly in these two things : 
First, truth is given in detached pieces, in chips, and facets, 
and aspects, not in its unity ; and so it may happen that 
many of the pieces, though belonging to one man, will not 
be known to do so, but be considered unrelated, for example, 
a reigning and a suffering Messiah. Second, the individual 
pieces of the truth so presented are generally embodied in 
a material form, in some action, such as washing, for purifica- 
tion ; or in some machine, as the tabernacle in the midst of 
the people for God's dwelling there ; or in some person, as 
Moses, the leader and redeemer of the people. Sometimes 
the truth will be explained apart from the symbol, but gener- 
ally the people were left to draw it out themselves. And 
these two things are worth noticing, namely, first, that it was 
chiefly the doctrines of salvation or the relations of men to 
God, and what He did to introduce them into these rela- 
tions, that were symbolised in this way. Second, in the 
Jewish economy the things which had formerly received a 
temporary and occasional embodiment, such as judgment 
symbolised in the Flood, fellowship with God in His walk 


with Enoch and some of the patriarchs, all these truths 
received, in the stable commonwealth of Israel, a steady 
and permanent embodiment either in the general relations 
of the theocracy as a whole to the world outside, or in its 
institutions and their relations to one another, such as the 
temple services and the great offices of king and prophet. 
The only difference was that now the same embodiment of 
the truth continued permanent. The embodiment of a truth 
is usually called a symbol. 

Thus there was a twofold inferiority in the Old Testa- 
ment revelation to the New, as is expressly stated in the 
Epistle to the Hebrews : first, the Old was fragmentary, the 
truth being given piecemeal (TroX-u/iepw?), bit by bit, in 
aspects only ; and, second, the Old was earthly, the truth 
not being bare, simple, universal, but clothed, mixed, and 
particular ; bodily, not spiritual. Thus, by way of example, 
the Old Testament knows nothing of our abstraction, a 
Church ; it knows only a concrete nationality, Israel, which 
is the people of God. It knows nothing of that abstraction 
called by us the world, that atmosphere, set of principles, 
line of action, circle of feeling, which we abstract from exist- 
ing society, and so name. It knows of concrete, existing 
heathen nations like Edom and Egypt, and most of all Baby- 
lon, which last perfectly realised the idea of a godless, violent, 
destructive world-power, and which therefore re-appears in 
the New Testament as the name of heathen, persecuting 
Eome. It knows nothing of unlocal privileges of a believer ; 
it has not yet reached the truth uttered by Christ, that 
neither in Jerusalem nor yet in the mountain of Samaria 
need men worship the Father, if only they that worship Him 
worship in spirit and in truth. Even the most spiritual of 
the Psalmists longs for the earthly temple, and thinks the 
swallow which may make her nest in God's altars happy in 
comparison of him who is far away in exile, and unable to 
see with his eyes God's holy place. 


All things were expressed materially. The spiritual 
things were there, as they are with us, only there was also 
the bodily form; and the two were not considered capable 
of separation. There is no mention made in the Old Testa- 
ment of a Church whose local seat is not Mount Zion. Even 
in the most expansive times of the Church's influence, Zion 
shall be the Church's centre, and the nations shall flow unto 
it, and many people shall say, " Come ye and let us go up 
to the mountain of the house of the Lord"; and the state 
of highest attainment of the Church on earth is called the 
new Jerusalem, the gates of which shall not be shut day nor 
night, and into which shall pour, in uninterrupted stream, 
the wealth of the Gentiles, with their kings in procession. 
Nowhere in the Old Testament is any mention made of a 
Church within which the Jews and the Gentiles are amal- 
gamated in one body and undistinguished. The Gentiles 
join themselves to the Church, but they remain an element 
that never coalesces. The kingdom of the Messiah is 
described as an earthly monarchy. This is so much the way 
of its representation that it is on all hands admitted; and 
interpreters merely differ as to the way in which this method 
of presenting it should be understood. Some think it is 
the way in which it shall yet be literally realised, when the 
kingdom is fully set up at the coming again of the Lord. 
Others maintain that prediction merely took this form, be- 
cause, at the time it was made, the kingdom of God had such 
an earthly form. 

This peculiarity of the Old Testament dispensation, that 
its truths were embodied, was not a peculiarity characteristic 
only of some portions of it. It was universally characteristic. 
The truth that God was in the midst of His people, for 
example, was embodied in the tabernacle, and His presence 
was visible in the Shekinah or cloud of smoke above the 
cherubim. The truth that man can draw near to God by a 
mediator was embodied in the entrances of the priest into the 


holy place and iuto the holiest of all, carrying in the 
blood and the incense, which is the prayers of saints, and 
bringing out the blessing, even righteousness, from the God 
of their salvation. The truth that the mediator must 
be himself holy, was embodied in the frequent washings 
of the priests in their robes of linen clean and white, 
which is the righteousness of saints. The truth that obedi- 
ence to God's law is needful to retain the privileges of 
His grace, and that disobedience involves expulsion from 
His fellowship, was embodied in the relations of the 
people to the land of Canaan, and in their banishment 
and exile when they fell away from the true principles 
of the religion of Jehovah. The truth that remission of 
sins is by the shedding of blood, was embodied in the animal 

It would not be easy to state a truth of religion which 
was not so embodied. Even the more subtle and hidden 
doctrines of the religion of Christ, such as that He is head 
of the Church, or, in other words, that God governs His 
Church not immediately, but by a mediatorial king, was 
embodied in the monarchy of Israel : " I have set My king 
upon My holy hill of Zion." The David ic king was head 
of God's visible Church the people Israel. And that God 
does not reveal truth immediately to the body of the Church, 
but employs another, a messenger, a prophet, was taught by 
the prophetic office. In all these cases the great truths of 
God's relation to men were taught in the Old as much as in 
the New, but they were taught bit by bit. In all these 
offices and all these rites, into how many fragments was that 
Unity, Christ, split ? 

These truths were also taught in a material, earthly 
manner. And both of these things constituted an inferi- 
ority. The material, ritualistic shape of the teaching, the 
apostle does not hesitate to characterise as ' rudimentary,' 
speaking of it as 'the rudiments of the world' and 'as 


weak and beggarly rudiments.' 1 And the writer to the 
Hebrews characterises the Old as ' worldly ' and ' fleshly ' : 
" Now verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine 
service, and a worldly sanctuary (KOO-JHIKOV) " ; 2 " being only 
(with meats and drinks, and divers washings) carnal ordin- 
ances (a-ap/cos) imposed until a time of reformation." 3 Thus 
there might be few of the principles of the Christian religion 
which a Jewish believer might not understand as general 
religious principles, although he might have the dimmest 
possible idea of the Christianity of them. He might not 
know that all these offices, king, priest, and such like, were 
to be united in one Person ; much less that that Person, who 
was King and Priest, was also to be, Himself, the bleeding 
victim offered on the altar. What probably was most of all 
wanting to the Jewish believers was the appreciation of these 
truths in their unity, and also the appreciation, though this 
may be but a corollary from the knowledge of their unity, 
of their future spirituality, and, if I may say so, of their 
disembodiment from the material forms in which, for the 
time, they were expressed. 

Accordingly, the outstanding characteristic of the Old 
Testament dispensation was its materialness. It was a 
constitution in which all religious truths were materially 
embodied ; that is, it was a symbolical religion. There were 
in every case two things, the truth and its embodiment. So 
far as the truths are concerned, they do not seem to differ 
from those in the New Testament, except that they appear 
more individually and in fragments. So far as the embodi- 
ment of them is concerned, it has almost entirely disappeared 
in the New Testament dispensation. There is no more a 
tabernacle, or Shekinah, no visible dwelling-place, no visible 
presence of God, no more divisions in the tabernacle, nor 
obstructions to access to God's presence. The whole para- 
phernalia of symbolism has disappeared. 

1 Gal. 4 3 - 9 . 2 Heb. 9 1 . * Hcb. 9 10 . 


Now, if we examine the truths in the old economy as 
they appeared in their rudiments, and as they are seen 
beginning to put themselves forth in yet undeveloped and 
imperfect forms, recognisable though immature, and only 
expressing themselves through a symbolism which must be 
called earthly or worldly; and if we again consider them 
as they are visible in the new economy, having reached 
perfection, and no longer clothed in the coarse forms of 
material things, but purely spiritual, we have something 
resembling the typology in nature. We have first the 
truths themselves, the ideas which we may call types, 
certain clusters of religious beliefs in combination ; then, 
second, we have these imperfect in the old, the combination 
not complete, but only certain elements of it, the idea far 
from fully realised, but so realised that, even in the incom- 
plete form, the perfect idea is suggested, so that one with 
skill may see to what the rudimentary germ will yet grow. 
Finally, in the New Testament, we have these perfect 
ideals realised, the rudiment having developed, in every case, 
into that of which it was the primary element. In all this 
we have something resembling the typology of nature ; and 
therefore, even on this ground, it is not amiss to speak of a 
typology in Scripture. 



THAT there is a typology in nature has been already shown ; 
and from the characteristics of that typology we inferred 
what would be the characteristics of the typology of 
revelation. We have now to consider, first, the Scripture 
terminology as regards types ; and, second, the theological 
usage, so that we may ascertain how far these agree with 
the typology found in nature. 

1. The Scripture terminology. The word type, TVTTOS, is 
from TVTTTCO, to strike, and means properly a Now or stroke, 
in which sense it does not occur in the New Testament ; 
then the mark produced by a blow, the print, impress of 
the stroke; so in John 20 25 , TOV TVTTOV TWV rj\.wv, the print 
of the nails. The word is used, in classical Greek, of the 
print of teeth, the mark of a stripe, the track of a foot- 
step, the stamp on a coin, and the like. Very naturally, 
from meaning the print or stamp upon a thing, it came to 
include the thing itself with the stamp on it, or an object 
with a figure carved on it, and hence more generally a figure 
or image, as in Acts 7 43 : " Ye took up the tabernacle of 
Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, the figures 
TOU? TVTTOVS which ye made, to worship them." Again, 
by a slight advance, it is used more abstractly of a certain 
form or method in itself, without its being considered the 
impression or image of anything else. Thus the chief 
captain Lysias wrote to Felix a letter after this manner: 



e7riarro\t]v e^ovaav TOV TVTTOV rovrov. 1 " Ye have obeyed 
from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered 
you." 2 So also in classical Greek it is said that lo was 
changed et? /3oo? TVTTOV, into the form of a cow. 

This last sense forms the point of transition to a new 
usage, in which the word, from expressing what was secondary 
and the result of imitation, comes to express what is primary 
and designed for imitation. Hence it may be translated 
pattern, model, or exemplar. Thus Phil. 3 17 : " Mark them 
which walk so as ye have us for an ensample,"- /ca&w? 
e^ere TVTTOV rjfia? ; 1 Thess. I 7 : " So that ye were ensamples 
to all that believe " ; 2 Thess. 3 9 : " To make ourselves an 
ensample unto you to follow us " ; and Moses was com- 
manded to make the tabernacle according to the model or 
pattern showed him in the mount, Kara TOV TVTTOV, Acts 
7 44 , Heb. 8 5 . 

Finally, the term has another use, more general than 
any already adduced, in which it does not strictly express 
the imitation or reproduction of any form, nor yet any form 
presented for imitation, but merely that one thing has a 
general resemblance to another, or is, as we should say, an 
analogue of it. Thus 1 Cor. 10 5 - 6 : " But with many of them 
God was not well pleased : for they were overthrown in the 
wilderness. Now these things were our examples,"- TVTTOI 
r/fjiMv, types, analogies of us, of our condition, " to the 
intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also 
lusted." And again, v. 11 : " Now these things happened to 
them for ensamples," TVTTOI, as types. And in Rom. 5 U , 
Adam is called TITTTOS TOV fj,e\\ovTO<;, type, analogue of 
Him that was to come ; for he stood in relations to men 
as to sin and death, analogous to those in which Christ 
stands to them as to righteousness and life. 

The word antitype, avrirvTros, of course, means corre- 
sponding to the TVTTOS. Now, if TUTTO? means, as it properly 
1 Acts 23 25 . 2 Rom. 6 17 . 



does, something secondary, the print or impression of what 
is primary, avrirviros will, of course, express the primary, 
the thing producing the impression, or the thing that has 
been imitated. Again, if TUTTO? express the model for imita- 
tion, dvTiTwiros will express the things made in imitation of 
the model. So in Heb. 9 24 , Moses was shown in the mount 
a TUTTO? to be imitated, and he made the tabernacle and its 
arrangements according to it. Hence these latter are called 
avTi-rvira. Christ is not entered into the holy places made 
with hands, which are the figures, of the true avrvrvira, 
things made of and corresponding to the TITTTO? seen in the 
mount. But if there be merely a similarity or analogy 
between two things, that which is held primary, for what- 
ever reason, will be called TUTTO?, and the secondary, 
dvTiTVTros. Hence baptism is called antitype to the waters 
of the Flood, " the antitype to which, baptism, doth also 
now save us," w KCU rjfias avrirvTrov vvv cr<wa /SaTruc-yLta 1 
(A.V. : " the like figure whereunto even baptism doth also 
now save us "). 

In theological language, the type is the unreal similitude, 
and the antitype the corresponding reality. But this is 
not the scriptural usage, according to which antitype is 
what corresponds to the type, while type may be either the 
primary reality, to be embodied in an imitation, or that 
secondary imitation, in which the reality is embodied. 
According to the passage in Hebrews, the Christian realities, 
being the models after which the Old Testament figures 
were fashioned, ought to be called the types, and those Old 
Testament figures of them the antitypes; but this is the 
converse of the theological language. At the same time, 
Scripture usage does not seem consistent, as Scripture calls 
Adam the type, and not the antitype, of Christ, and the 
Old Testament saints in their experience the types of us, 
and not our antitypes. 

1 1 Pet. 3 21 . 


Now, this somewhat lengthy investigation of words 
furnishes us with several ideas which we may consider 
scriptural. First, the idea of several spheres : one present, 
and perhaps more than one past. This present sphere is 
described as us in opposition to those who were types of us ; 
as rd /jieX\.ovra, the things to come, and rd dXijOwd, the true 
things, in opposition to certain things that existed for the 
time then being, and were only figures of the true. This 
present sphere is one ; but it almost appears as if there were 
several past spheres of unequal, though perhaps concentric, 
circumference. For instance, the things of the present 
sphere seem described as rd peX\,ovra, in opposition to the 
Jewish economy, which did not itself possess these things, 
but only a a/cid or faint resemblance of them. Here the 
sphere opposed to the present is the law, or the Jewish dis- 
pensation. But when Christ is called in Eomans o ^e'XX&w, 
and Adam 6 TVTTOS TOU /ieXXo^ro?, the contrast seems to be 
between the present and a greatly wider, earlier sphere, 
namely, the old humanity, which is contrasted with the 
new. It seems certainly the idea of the New Testament 
writers that God's dispensations proceed by developments 
that are parallel to one another. 

A second idea, which indeed is involved in the other, 
is that the things in the one sphere have a resemblance 
to those in the other. There is such a correspondence, at 
least, that the things in the one sphere may be called 
analogous to those in the other sphere. This seems in- 
volved in the very words TVTTO? and aVrtruTro?. But the 
resemblance is more clearly stated in reference to certain 
of the things, for those in the present sphere are called 
TO, d\r]0ivd, the true things, while the things that resemble 
them in the former were made after their fashion, mere 
imitations of them in material form. The Epistle to the 
Hebrews uses two words to express this idea, aicid, shadow, 
and LnroSeiyfjia. It was necessary that the v 


of the things in the heavens should be purified with 
these, i.e. the animal sacrificial blood and the like, but 
the heavenly things themselves, with better sacrifices than 
these. These uTroSe/ry/zaTa, translated patterns, are the things 
already called avrirvn-a, namely, the Old Testament material 
machinery, the imitations in matter of the realities that are 
Christian and spiritual. And again, S 5 : " There are priests 
that serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things," 
vTTo&eiypari, fcal ovaa. And again, 10 1 : " Now the law having 
a shadow of good things to come, and not the very essence 
of them." I do not know how far we are entitled to press 
the term shadow, and argue that every shadow is projected 
by a substance; this shadow is the shadow of that sub- 
stance. Perhaps more is not contained in the term than 
the idea of unsubstantial resemblance. The connection of the 
shadow with the substance it may not be intended to convey. 
The law, it is said, has a thin resemblance of the reality, 
but without the accessory idea that it is the coming reality 
that has cast its shadow before. 

Third, another idea seems to be that the things in the 
former sphere were ordained with a view to the things of 
the latter or present sphere. Or, at any rate, it is evident 
that the things of the present sphere were the things in 
view at the beginning. This is evident, of course, to us now 
from actual occurrences. But it may be inferred from the 
nature of the case, for the things of this sphere are called 
the true things, which we must assume to have been the 
goal of all development and prior activity. Hence, if the 
perfect things were in view from the beginning, the former 
things may have been designed to suggest them to those 
then living ; and from their nature they were, of course, 
well fitted to do this. 

2. The theological terminology. Leaving now the usage 
of Scripture, we must look at the theological language in 
common use. And here three terms need to be defined, 


namely, allegory, symbol, and type. An allegory is a fiction 
that teaches a moral truth. A symbol is a fact that teaches 
a moral truth. A type is a fact that teaches a moral truth 
and predicts some actual realisation of that truth. An 
example from early history will illustrate these distinctions. 
Suppose we should, with some of the early Fathers, consider 
the narrative of God's dealings with Adam and Eve, His 
making coats of skin for them and clothing them, not to be 
true history, but a fiction composed with a moral design. 
Suppose we should say the meaning is that God, by His 
pardoning mercy, covered up and took away from our first 
parents their uneasy consciousness of sin, and their exposure 
in a sinful state to their own eyes and the eye of God, but 
that the literal transaction never took place, this would 
be a specimen of an allegory. The parables of Christ are 
allegories. They are conscious fictions, feigned with the 
design of conveying moral ideas more easily to the mind. 
Allegory, therefore, does not differ greatly from myth. The 
main difference is this, that allegory is always consciously so 
in the mind of the writer, while myth may be begotten by a 
national mind with apparent unconsciousness. 

Suppose now that, instead of denying the literality of the 
transaction, w r e assumed it, but still affirmed that it had a 
moral meaning, which was that of God's covering mercy 
or imputing of righteousness, given above, then the event 
becomes a symbol. It is true that, in the history of inter- 
pretation, the name allegorical has been extended also to 
this kind of interpretation, and in this sense the Fathers are 
often called allegorical interpreters. They ought more strictly 
to be called symbolical interpreters. They rarely denied 
the literality or actual occurrence of any event, but they 
asserted that the occurrence had also a moral significance, 
which was generally the real cause of its being narrated in 
Scripture, and which it was the part of the interpreter to 
discover. It cannot be doubted that, as a whole, the Old 


Testament dispensation was symbolical. Even its historical 
transactions, as the Exodus, the possession of Canaan, the 
conflicts with enemies outside, the separation of the people 
on all sides, and still more its ritual observances and in- 
stitutions, its services in the tabernacle, its washings and 
clothings and the like, were all symbols of spiritual ideas. 
The very peculiarity of this dispensation was its thorough- 
going symbolism. 

Suppose now we go a step further, and reach what has 
been called the type. Suppose that the transaction of 
clothing our first parents was real, that it was done with real 
skins (and, of course, these could only be procured by the 
death of certain animals) ; and that the moral significance of 
the symbol was that God put upon them that which covered 
their sin from their own consciousness and from God's sight. 
and that this covering could only be procured by the death of 
some creature other than themselves ; and, further, that both 
this covering and this method of procuring it foreshadowed, 
or predicted in a figure, God's justifying righteousness pro- 
cured by Christ's death. then we have a theological type. 
It is a prophetical symbol. It is an institution or trans- 
action that symbolises a truth and predicts a fact, the fact, 
namely, in which the truth finds its perfect realisation. If, 
for example, sacrifice meant the self-dedication of the sinner 
to God, this truth of self-dedication, this great religious idea 
being embodied in the sacrificial action, the sacrifice was a 
symbol of it ; but if in addition it was a type, it predicted, 
or, as the prediction was not in words but in the more 
obscure form of acts, it foreshadowed the perfect act of self- 
dedication to God, Christ's offering up of Himself once for 
all. Or, if sacrifice meant the substitution in death of an 
innocent victim for the guilty, it was a symbol of this truth 
of religion ; but, being also a type, it foreshadowed or fore- 
told that only real substitution for sinners, namely, Christ. 

Between the two views of sacrifice, just given, there is a 


radical distinction. The first view, that of self-surrender or 
self-dedication, is an independent truth of religion, which 
no doubt finds its perfect realisation in Christianity, but is 
essential to every religion. The second idea, that of substitu- 
tion, seems peculiar to Christianity, and the expression of it in 
sacrifice is not the symbolising of a general truth of religion 
as such, but of this particular religion ; and, in fact, the typical 
value of the sacrifice is strictly its only meaning. It predicts 
the substitutionary death of Christ. No doubt we may divide 
this substitutionary death into two things, the truth of sub- 
stitution and the fact of His substitution, and say that the 
truth was symbolised and the fact predicted. But, at any 
rate, such cases as this, where the truth symbolised is not a 
general truth, but has only a single illustration, namely, in 
the fact predicted, differ materially from cases in which the 
truth symbolised is general, and what is predicted is merely 
a high, or the highest, example of its realisation. 

It is cases of this kind which seem to have given rise to 
two completely divergent views of typology to which I shall 
allude immediately. But, before doing this, I wish to draw 
attention to the fact that there is general agreement between 
the theological language and that of Scripture, and between 
their respective conceptions. Both admit two spheres, a 
prior and a present ; both affirm a resemblance between the 
two ; and both admit a relation, though perhaps the theo- 
logical is more explicit in defining and naming the relation, 
which it calls at once predictive. The former is prophetical 
of the latter. It is round this predictive feature in the types 
that the difficulties gather. 

If we take any Old Testament rite, say that of sacrifice, on 
all hands held typical, and ask what it was about it that made 
it predictive, or how it, as a whole, was prophetic of the 
sacrifice of Christ, the answer is not easy to give. Putting 
ourselves in the place of an Old Testament worshipper, and 
looking at the sacrifice with his eyes, we certainly see an 


arrangement for taking away sin ; we see that, on the death 
of a spotless creature closely connected with the worshipper, 
aud presented by him, and offered on the altar of God, the 
worshipper's sins are held as removed. But, so far as the 
mere thing itself goes, there is no allusion to anything future. 
The relations are all those of the present: there is a real 
sinner, a real offence, a real offering, and a real pardon. 
What in all this is prophetic ? The transactions have a 
present reality and validity. They are transactions in the inner 
and the outward life, and are relations with God of real men. 
Wherein does their predictiveness consist ? Now, I think 
most definitions of a type have proceeded from the feeling 
that that question must be answered. Indeed, as a type is 
usually held to be a symbol with a prophetic force added, it 
is essential to account for the predictiveness, which is the 
very differentia between a type and a symbol. For example, 
here is one definition that has been given. " A type is a 
representation of spiritual truth by means of actions or 
objects placed before the senses, and calculated to convey 
through them to the mind a lively conception of the truth 
which they are designed to represent. A type is some- 
thing which the divine author of Scripture announces to 
us as having been specially contrived and appointed for the 
one purpose of adumbrating certain religious truths, and 
foreshadowing certain future transactions with which these 
truths were connected. Viewed simply in itself, it is a 
hieroglyph, or symbolical representation of divine truth. 
Viewed in its relation to Christianity, it served the purpose 
of pre-intimation or memorial, to those who lived before the 
advent of Christ, of the great facts connected with Him on 
which Christianity as a religious system rests." 

If, in view of this definition, we put the question, How 
did a type serve the purpose of a pre-intimation, to those 
then living, of the great facts of Christianity ? we receive 
the following remarkable answer : " The essential element of 


a type is associative or suggestive capacity, that is, the power 
of calling vividly before the mind something which is itself 
absent. Now, this may exist either with or without resem- 
blance. The main point in all such cases is that the mind 
have acquired the habit of connecting the two together, so 
that, on the perception of the one, the conception of the 
other may invariably follow." 

Here, then, is the explanation of the predictiveness of the 
type. It is due to an acquired habit of mind. The mind has 
learned to connect the future facts with this institution ; and 
when the institution is visible, the thought of the future facts 
is suggested. The institution does not suggest them by any 
quality in itself, for the writer asserts that resemblance is not 
of essential consequence in a type. It suggests them simply 
from association with them. If one now asks, How came the 
knowledge of the facts which the mind has learned to 
associate with such ritualistic institutions ? there is but one 
answer to such a question : " The future facts have been 
otherwise revealed to the mind, and it has been taught to 
associate them with the ritual institution which typifies 
them. For a type is something which the divine author 
of Scripture announces to us, though, of course, to the Old 
Testament saints primarily, as having been specially contrived 
and appointed for the one purpose of adumbrating certain 
religious truths, and foreshadowing certain future trans- 
actions." Both the truths and the transactions are future ; 
and to adumbrate and foreshadow them is the one purpose 
of the institution, and that it does adumbrate them is 
announced to us by the divine author of Scripture. One 
wonders what those terms ' adumbrating ' and ' foreshadowing ' 
really mean, if there be no connection of resemblance between 
the umbra or shadow, and the thing adumbrated ? Why, 
even the hieroglyph arose from being primarily a picture. 

This excessively mechanical theory is wholly opposed to 
evidence. For, first, the belief that resemblance is not an 


essential element in the type, is opposed by the fact that all 
the types do resemble the future thing, called the antitype. 
Sacrifice certainly bears a close resemblance to Christ's 
offering of Himself. The lifting up of the brazen serpent 
bears so very great a likeness to the crucifixion of Christ, 
that He Himself speaks of His death as 'a lifting up.' 
And there is not one from which resemblance is awanting. 


And, second, the extraordinary opinion that the institutions 
called types were accompanied or preceded by verbal explana- 
tions of their antitypical facts, is destitute of every shred 
of support in the Old Testament Scriptures. There is no 
passage there containing such explanations ; and there is no 
evidence that any esoteric teaching existed in the old dis- 
pensation alongside of the public instruction, but unwritten. 
And if explanations of this kind had been known, such 
corruption and misapprehension of the ritual system, as 
prevailed in later times, could hardly have occurred. 

Not to dwell upon another argument, that such clear 
verbal explanations would have rendered this elaborate ritual 
unnecessary, the theory here maintained is opposed to what 
appears to be the manner of God's revelation. It is His 
way first to exhibit truth, rather than to give it plain and 
articulate utterance. He called Abraham before He taught 
the doctrine of election ; He redeemed Israel before He gave 
any doctrine of redemption. Or, if His revelation assumes 
the form of speech, it is first of all the general principle, and 
not the particular fact, that is taught. It is the seed of 
the woman the most general designation possible in whom 
the promise first centres. Then it is the seed of Abraham, 
a narrower sphere, but yet very wide. Then it is the seed 
of David, still narrower, but yet of unlimited expansion. 
And if the so-called types predict, the predictive power 
must lie in themselves, not in any statement about future 
things, which they have the power of calling into the mind. 

Another definition of a type not very dissimilar, though 


making the predictiveness lie in another region, is that of 
Bishop Marsh, who says in his sixth Lecture : " To constitute 
one thing the type of another, as the term is generally 
understood in reference to Scripture, something more is 
wanted than mere resemblance. The former must not only 
resemble the latter, but must have been designed to resemble 
the latter. It must have been so designed in its original 
institution. It must have been designed as something 
preparatory to the latter. The type as well as the antitype 
must have been preordained, and they must have been pre- 
ordained as constituent parts of the same general scheme of 
divine providence. It is this previous design and this 
preordained connection which constitute the relation of type 
and antitype. Where these two qualities fail, where the 
previous design and the preordained connection are wanting, 
the relation between any two things, however similar in 
themselves, is not the relation of type to antitype." l Again, in 
his seventh Lecture, Marsh proceeds : " When two apparently 
independent events, distant from each other many hundreds 
or even some thousands of years, are so connected in the 
general scheme of divine providence that the one was designed 
to indicate the other, the one is no less prophetic of the 
other than a verbal declaration that the thing which forms 
the antitype would in due season be accomplished." 2 

How shall this design be known ? And the answer is : 
Only from Scripture. Those things only are to be held 
typical of things in the New Testament which are expressly 
said to be so. Marsh, no doubt, intended to frame a definition 
that would cut down the grotesque luxuriousness of the 
earlier typologies, in which anything in the Old, in the 
faintest manner resembling anything in Christianity, was 
forthwith considered a prophecy, as that red thread which the 
harlot Eahab hung out, and was saved by, was considered a 
prophecy of the red stream of blood flowing from Christ's 
1 Interpretation of the Bible, p. 374. 2 Ibid., p. 382. 


wounds, whereby we really have salvation. But Marsh's 
definition, by making a type a designed representation, and 
by saying that the only way one can know a representation 
to be designed is not from anything in itself, but by being 
told in Scripture, has not only cut down the unsightly 
rankness of former typical growths, but cut up the tree from 
the root. Any investigation of principles on such a theory 
is out of the question. 

But is not this fact of divine design a mere truism, 
which is, of course, to be assumed, but which it is absurd 
to elevate into the rank of a characteristic or a criterion, 
inasmuch as it is common to the whole Old Testament 
economy, which was designed by God to be a schoolmaster 
to lead to Christ? And the fact that some particular 
thing in the Old is supposed to be designed to indicate 
some particular thing in the New, cannot introduce any 
alteration ; for, of course, if there be correspondence between 
the wholes, there must be between the parts. One can 
easily see that the question Marsh put to himself was, 
How am I authorised to consider this thing in the Old 
predictive of this in the New? and the simplest answer 
was, If God designed it to be. 

But if we suppose the question put, How did an Old 
Testament saint know a thing to be typical ? the answer is 
less easy. For we are supposed to be informed of God's 
designs from the New Testament; but the Old Testament 
saint would have been wholly without knowledge, unless he 
had been informed otherwise. I think Marsh's criterion of 
a divine design might be used as a negative test of a type. 
If it could be shown that anything was not designed as a 
premonition of the New, then this would teach us that our 
positive criteria had been misapplied, or had somehow failed 
to furnish us with the truth. But, obviously, the characteristic 
of a type must be sought for in itself. That which makes it 
prophetic must be some quality of its own, not, perhaps, 


peculiar to it, but common to it with the whole Old Testament 
dispensation. What the divine design secures is, that there 
be types, that there be combinations of history and institu- 
tions which are typical ; but it is not God's design that makes 
them typical. It would be an argument of a similar kind to 
Marsh's, if one were to ask with regard to any passage, 
Did God design the passage to mean this ? instead of first 
asking, What does the passage mean ? and then inferring 
that God designed it to have this meaning. 

The fact is too patent that such definitions imply that 
the typical institution has no meaning in itself; and thus 
questions about its meaning must be about what God intends 
to mean by it. The types are to the human mind like the 
terms of a foreign language. God understands them, for they 
are His language. But men must have them translated into 
their own tongue, before they can understand them. And this 
most mechanical idea, by placing the symbolism of Scripture 
out of all relation to human thought and the symbolisms of 
other religions, reveals also the other too patent fact that 
the typical is considered to lie in these external ritualistic 
symbols only, to lie exclusively in the form of the ritualism. 

Consequently, we must hold that it is not essential to 
a type to be designed ly God. This mark, though given 
by most typologists, is due to a confusion. Similarity, 
identity, and predictiveness are its real elements. If David 
could have been placed where he was, and been what he 
was, without God's design, he would still have been typical. 
But, of course, without God's intervention, neither he nor 
his dispensation could have come into existence. God 
brought about combinations which w T ere typical, but it does 
not enter into the idea of a type that He brought it about. 
Most of the Old Testament characters and institutions 
and facts are the result not less of human free will than 
of divine appointment. It is not necessary to say that 
anything that is typical is absolutely and directly of divine 


appointment, except in so far as God may be supposed to 
have co-operated with and ruled the free will of man, so as 
in the end by its means to secure His own intentions. But 
plainly we are not under any obligation to find express 
authority either in the Old Testament or the New for 
any particular thing or person being held to be typical. 
Bather, from the nature and circumstances of the thing or 
person, that is, from our knowledge of the New, we can 
say if any person or institution realised any of their rela- 
tions, or any of the New Testament institutions. If they 
did, then they are typical. 

What the divine design secures, therefore, is that there 
be such offices, persons, and relations as are typical; but 
the divine design is no part of their typicalness. A 
typical dispensation is one related to the dispensation of 
which it is typical, as a bud is to a flower, as a minia- 
ture to a portrait, as a sketch or outline to a filled-in 
picture. It is understood that the Old Testament dispen- 
sation in many of its relations mainly in those relations 
called redemptive, though not so much in those relations 
called moral stood related in this manner to the New. 
It is also understood that God willed this relation of the 
two, that it was the result of His design. What then 
does the divine ordination and disposition of Old Testa- 
ment institutions really contribute to the type ? The re- 
demptive significance of the one, and the same but higher 
redemptive significance of the other, connect the two dis- 
pensations together ; and this redemptive sameness makes 
the identity or unity, which, existing in different degrees, 
makes the type. But the one would have been typical of 
the other, apart from all divine design, could the relation 
between them have arisen apart from divine design. But, of 
course, without special divine design, this relation could not 
have arisen. The divine design, therefore, is no element of the 
typicalness ; it merely secures relations which are typical. 


The question, Wherein lies the predictive element ? is 
undoubtedly one of great difficulty to settle, as well as the 
question, How far did the people know the types to be types ? 
Certainly they knew mainly their symbolical value, but 
perhaps not many of the Israelites knew fully their pre- 
dictive worth. But knowing the great religious truths 
symbolised, say in sacrifice, in the tabernacle, and in their 
relations to the heathen, the Israelites were intelligent 
religious men, even if they did not know in whom alone 
the principle of sacrifice was perfectly true, and in whom 
alone God tabernacled among men. 

The predictive element of the types seems to me to 
have lain in their imperfection. It is a general method 
with God to begin a great work far back, and move 
onward through many grades to its perfection. There 
seem really not many distinct elements in creation, and 
not many distinct forms. But these elements appear in 
endless combinations, and these forms in an inexhaustible 
variety of degrees of development, all being steps onward 
to a perfect realising of the conception in the form. Now, 
a thoughtful Israelite could not but inquire whether his 
dispensation was final. Indeed, he was often told that it 
was not. And he could not help inquiring after the 
principle of sacrifice, and whether the shape in which 
he saw it embodied that principle perfectly, and so on. 
Much of the old dispensation seems thus laid down enig- 
matically, the natural effect of which is to stimulate and 
excite to inquiry and meditation. And so prophet after 
prophet gradually unfolded the principles of the Mosaic 
dispensation, correcting mistaken theories of it, and deepen- 
ing conceptions that were in the main accurate, but not 
sufficiently profound. 

Hence the chief principles of typology, which we have 
reached, are : 

1. The old and the new dispensations contain essentially 


the same religious principles, as they must do, being both 
the true religion, and occupied about the relations between 
the same God and the same men, a holy God and sinful 


2. Since God's method of revelation, as well as His 
method of acting in general, is progressive, and since the new 
dispensation contains what is perfect, it follows that the 
old contains the same elements in an imperfect state, as 
indeed the Epistle to the Hebrews expressly states that 
perfection was not by the law, and that the institutions 
of the Old Covenant could not make the comers thereunto 

perfect. 1 

3. From what we see of God's action, this imperfect 
will be something less than what is perfection, but of the 
same kind ; and though this is God's general method of 
working, it seems almost necessary here for another reason, 
namely, the backwardness of those with whom He had to 
work. For, probably, the early men could not have taken 
in the naked, abstract principles of Christianity. And thus 
God's general method, which we might, at any rate, have 
expected, was still more to be expected from its being 
necessary on man's side. Now, the first form of the 
revelation being less, though identical, being the bud and 
not the flower, though the bud of the flower, and being 
of moral and religious things, its imperfection will consist 
partly in a want of clearness, as in the prophecy about the 
seed of the woman, partly in a want of unity and all- 
sidedness, being given bit by bit, but chiefly in being 
presented under the cover of a symbol, that is, in a 
material form. This material form might be of many 
lands, as for instance a great historical occurrence like the 
Flood or the Exodus; an institution like the Passover; a 
material thing like the tabernacle ; or an outstanding, per- 
sonal office like the kingship: things visible to the sight, 

1 Heb. 10 1 . 


but teaching permanently some great truth, such as judg- 
ment, redemption, atonement, indwelling of God among men, 
mediatorial sovereignty, and the like. This materialness is 
the distinguishing mark of the old dispensation. As I 
might express it, the old consists of a body and a soul, the 
new of a disembodied soul. In the old, almost no truth was 
taught abstractly, but every one concretely, in examples of 
history, in institutions, in men, etc. Thus the Old Testament, 
as a whole, is symbolical. The truth is in it, but under a 
material clothing. God's Church, for example, shines out 
in it distinctly as a nation ; the world in opposition to 
the Church appears visibly in the heathen nations ; their 
antithesis, in the constant war between the two ; their 
separation, in the very distinct natural boundaries of Israel, 
and much more. In the Old Testament, every truth was 
embodied. In the New, the body falls away, and the truth 
alone is left. 

4. These Old Testament truths, owing to their being 
materially expressed, were also imperfectly expressed. But 
this very imperfection was a prediction of their full realisa- 
tion. Thus they were types. 




BEFORE we can proceed to arrange in chronological order 
the writings of the canonical prophets, and summarise their 
doctrinal teaching, we must first discuss what we shall, for 
the sake of brevity, call the Isaianic problem. This problem 
involves a statement of the fundamental rules under which 
Higher Criticism is necessarily conducted. Higher Criticism 
is a technical term which has gradually come into use by 
way of contrast to Textual or Lower Criticism. The latter 
concerns itself with all questions regarding the text of 
Scripture, such as various readings, corrupt readings, and 
possible emendations. What promises to be a most potent 
instrument of textual criticism in connection with the pro- 
phetical books has been brought into use only within very 
recent years, namely, the rhythm or poetical structure of 
the prophecies. 

Several theories are held regarding Hebrew poetry; but 
the most generally accepted one is that the poetical line 
is not to be measured by long or short syllables, nor by 
a certain number of syllables, but by accentual beats. 
That is to say, Hebrew poetry resembles our own in being 
accentual, though the number of accents is not by any 
means so rigidly fixed. Successive lines may differ, one 
having three beats and another four, but in general there 
is a tendency to uniformity. Therefore, in the prophetical 
books and the Psalms, this rhythmical principle may be 
extremely effective for the purposes of textual criticism. 



If it finds a line too short, it will supply some word to 
lengthen it ; if too long, it will omit some word, in order 
to bring the line to its proper length. As yet, however, 
the use of this method has not got much beyond the region 
of pure conjecture, and is to be used only with the most 
scrupulous caution. 

Under the name 'Higher Criticism' are embraced ques- 
tions of a different kind, such as those of date, authorship, 
unity of composition, and the like ; and, of course, the 
principles, in accordance with which such questions can be 
properly decided. Its most powerful instrument is really 
the progressiveness of the religion of Israel. Consequently, 
the judgment in regard to the authorship of any passage 
must depend upon the time at which the ideas found in it 
became current. All criticism is really an application of 
the principles of common sense by a person provided with 
the requisite knowledge of facts. The expression ' Higher 
Criticism is certainly somewhat infelicitous, as it has led 
many unsophisticated individuals to suppose that those who 
speak of it, and claim to practise it, arrogate to themselves 
some capacities which ordinary minds do not possess. 
When thus misunderstood or thus misrepresented, the ex- 
pression may have something offensive in it ; and it might 
therefore be well to avoid it. But, properly understood, it 
simply refers to the higher kind of questions on which the 
critical judgment is exercised, and does not suggest that 
the Higher Critics either are, or conceive themselves to be, 
superior persons. All that sound criticism implies, whether 
higher or lower, is a competent knowledge of the facts, 
good judgment, and perhaps a certain tact and instinctive 
sense, which only great familiarity with language and style 
can supply. 

Biblical criticism, in the hands of those who use it 
reasonably, is entirely an inductive science. Its reasoning 
is of the kind called probable ; and its conclusions attain 


to nothing more than a greater or less probability, though 
the probability in many instances may be such as entirely 
to satisfy the mind. The criticism of the prophetic literature, 
the object of which is to ascertain the date of the writings, 
starts with no a priori principles as to the nature of prophecy, 
or the capabilities of the prophetic gift. If it apply certain 
principles to questions of date, these principles have been 
learned, in all cases, from an examination of the prophetic 
Scriptures ; they are themselves the fruits of induction. It 
examines the prophecies, and observes the facts ; and its 
conclusions are those which such an examination leads it 
to consider probable. It eschews the region of abstract 
principles. Some who practise it have, no doubt, spoken of 
certain things, such as the projection of the prophet's view 
into the minute circumstances of a period a century ahead 
of him, as " psychological impossibilities." These statements, 
however, are aberrations, though aberrations which, from the 
love of the human mind for general principles that go further 
than mere conclusions founded on the registration of facts, 
it is difficult to avoid ; and they are to be paralleled by 
similar excesses on the part of investigators in physical 
science. Such things, in both cases, are merely the indi- 
vidual faults of particular men, and are not to be laid to 
the charge of the science itself. 

The science of historical criticism is comparatively new. 
For about twenty-five centuries, no one dreamt of doubting 
that Isaiah the son of Amoz was the author of every part 
of the book that goes under his name ; and those who still 
maintain the unity of authorship are accustomed to point, 
with satisfaction, to the unanimity of the Christian Church 
on the matter, till a few German scholars arose, about a 
century ago, and called in question the unity of this book. 
The reference to the view of the ancient Church creates a 
prejudice against the critics which is hardly fair ; for their 
doubts are recent, just because the whole science and 


direction of mind which taught them to doubt is recent; 
and it would be as proper to blame the Fathers for not 
doubting earlier, as to blame the moderns for beginning to 
doubt so late. The whole science of historical criticism, 
whether applied to the Scriptures or to profane literature and 
ancient history, is of recent origin, being the outcome of that 
direction of mind which has created all the inductive sciences. 

The portions of the Book of Isaiah which have been 
denied to be Isaiah's are these : first, the whole of the great 
prophecy of the Eestoration, chaps. 40-66 ; and, second, many 
sections in the first 39 chapters, such as chaps. 13 14 23 , 
21 1 - 10 , (chap. 23,) 24-27, 34-35, and 36-39. The parts 
admitted to be genuine are chaps. 112, 1520, part of 
21, 22, 28-33, in all, about 26 or 27 chapters out of a 
total of 66. 

The general canon on which these conclusions are based 
is this : That a prophetic writer always makes the basis of 
his prophecies the historical position in which he himself 
is placed. This principle is not an a priori principle, but 
is one gathered from careful observations, made on those 
prophecies the age of which is known. And this principle 
is supported by another, which is also a conclusion drawn 
from observation, namely, that the purpose of prophecy as 
exercised in Israel was mainly ethical, bearing on the life 
and manners of the people among whom the prophet lived. 

These two principles support one another. The first is 
that, in point of fact, we find those prophets whose age is 
known constantly referring to the conditions of the time 
in which they lived, and to the contemporary kingdoms 
around Israel, and founding their prophetic speeches upon 
these things. The second is, that this is just what we 
should expect, because prophecy was in the main an ethical 
instrument, directed to the conduct and the religious life of 
the people, and not to any great extent occupied with the 
future, at least not with minute occurrences in the future, 


but only with great general issues, such as the day of the 
Lord. Then the conclusion drawn from these two principles 
is, that when we find in any prophet allusions to conditions 
of society which we know from history to be those of a 
particular date, to political complications with the States 
around Israel, and to hopes or fears suggested by these 
complications, the prophet himself actually lived during these 
complications, was a contemporary of the kingdoms, which 
he names, such as Assyria or Babylon, and shared the hopes 
and fears of the people of that time. 

Therefore, when we read prophecies, as in the second 
half of Isaiah, in which the people are comforted, and told 
that their warfare is fulfilled, and their sorrows are at an 
end ; in which Jehovah, having cast off His people for a 
time, now returns to them in everlasting mercy, and pledges 
Himself to feed His flock for ever like a shepherd ; in 
which Cyrus is introduced as executing God's counsel, 
and Jehovah promises regarding him, " He shall let go My 
captives, he shall rebuild My city ; saying to Jerusalem, 
Thou shalt be built ; and to the temple, Thy foundation 
shall be laid " ; 1 in which it is also said, " The Lord will 
comfort Zion : He will comfort all her waste places ; He 
will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the 
garden of the Lord " ; 2 in which the people themselves are 
introduced, supplicating the Lord after this manner : " Be 
not wroth very sore, Lord, neither remember iniquity for 
ever : behold, see, we beseech Thee, we are all Thy people. 
Thy holy cities are a wilderness, Zion is a wilderness, 
Jerusalem a desolation. Our holy and our beautiful house, 
where our fathers praised Thee, is burned up with fire : and 
all our pleasant things are laid waste. Wilt Thou refrain 
Thyself for these things, Lord ? wilt Thou hold Thy peace, 
and afflict us very sore ? " 3 and in which we find the 
exiles addressed thus : " Go ye forth of Babylon, flee ye 

1 Isa. -li- . 2 Isa. 51 3 . 3 Isa. 64 9 . 


from the Chaldeans ; say ye, The Lord hath redeemed His 
servant Jacob " ; 1 when such words are read, and when 
the prophet is found basing his exhortations on such a 
condition of things and on such events, stilling the people's 
fears of Cyrus, striving to elevate their minds to such con- 
ceptions of Jehovah as he himself cherishes, that they may 
behold Him in all the great occurrences that are taking 
place, fulfilling His great purpose of their redemption and 
through them of the evangelisation of the world, the con- 
clusion to be drawn is that the author of the prophecies 
was a contemporary of the Exile and of Zion's desolation ; 
that he witnessed the career of Cyrus ; in short, that he 
prophesied towards the close of the Captivity, and saw the 
clay of Israel's deliverance beginning to dawn. 

This is the general argument, though it ramifies into a 
great number of particulars. There are some subsidiary 
arguments which are of less weight, arguments from style, 
and the like. The general principle is stated by Bleek in his 
Introduction with moderation and fairness as follows : " The 
chief rule, therefore, which we shall use in this investiga- 
tion [i.e. in ascertaining the date or age of a prophecy] is 
the result of our previous consideration of the nature of 
Hebrew prophesying, namely, the two points : (a) that the 
aim of the Hebrew prophets was throughout ethical, having 
in view the condition and necessities of their people ; and 
(&) that during their inspiration they always retained a clear 
consciousness, and in their consciousness were never mentally 
isolated from the external circumstances surrounding them. 
From these two points we at once gain the rule that in the 
utterances presented to us we should take notice of those 
circumstances with which the actual prophecy is bound up, 
which are presupposed in it as present and well known; 
we can then look upon them as constituting the state of 
things surrounding the prophet at the time of uttering or 

1 Isa. 48 20 . 


composing his prophecies. If these circumstances clearly 
point out and are characteristic of any particular age, or 
any particular date, in preference to any other, we may 
thus ascertain the date of the composition." 1 And then 
Bleek refers to some of the features of the second half of 
Isaiah, such as those just mentioned, and draws the infer- 
ence that the author of the prophecies was a contemporary 
of the Exile of Judah. 

These two principles of Bleek's are virtually the same as 
the two stated above a little ago, though in the inverse order. 
It is of no consequence, however, in which order we take 
them, whether we say, with Bleek, the purpose of prophecy 
is ethical, it was designed to influence the men of the 
prophet's own age ; and in point of fact we find that the 
prophetic inspiration did not transport the prophet into 
distant times, he moved among the conditions of his own 
time, and made them the basis of his revelations in con- 
formity with the ethical design of his function, or whether 
we say, an examination of the prophecies shows that the 
prophets mainly confined themselves to exhortations and 
instructions founded on the condition of society in their 
day ; and this is what we should expect, when we consider 
that the chief purpose of prophecy was an ethical and 
practically religious one. 

It is important clearly to understand the principle here 
made use of, because it is capable of being invidiously put, 
and so as to raise an issue which is altogether false. The 
first half of the principle is that prophecy is ethical, that is, 
subserves moral purposes, and was exercised in the immediate 
religious interests of the persons among whom the prophet 
lived, and for their practical guidance in life and thought. 
It is not perhaps necessary, after what has been already said, 
to argue that this ethical and practical purpose is the chief 
characteristic of prophecy. But the practical deduction to 

1 Bleek's Introduction, Variables' translation, vol. ii. p. 37. 


be drawn from it, in the present connection, is that for this 
moral object mere minute predictions reaching into distant 
periods, and a movement of the prophetic mind in these 
periods, would have been generally of no practical utility to 
the people. It would, in fact, have been, for all practical 
purposes, very much the same as if a preacher of to-day were 
to found his pulpit exhortations to us on a condition of 
things which he felt assured would supervene, let us say, a 
hundred years after this. 

Another very important point, in this connection, is that 
the body of prophetic men was continuous. There was 
therefore no need that a prophet should prophesy for 
generations far distant. When these generations arose, a 
new prophet would be raised up to speak the message 
of God to them. Of course, the revelation to the people, 
by the prophets, of the general issues of the kingdom of 
God, and the destinies of the nation only to be realised 
many years later, such as the prophetic views of the peace 
and righteousness of the Messianic kingdom, might be 
very helpful to them, because these issues were often full 
of encouragement to them in their own struggles ; or they 
were issues that depended on their present conduct, and 
might be furthered if good or retarded if evil, by their moral 
demeanour, and the announcement of them was meant to act 
upon their present life. Thus Jeremiah says : " The Lord 
sent me to prophesy against this city all the words which ye 
have heard. Now, therefore, amend your ways and your 
doings, and obey the voice of the Lord your God ; and the 
Lord will repent Him of the evil which He hath pronounced 
against you." l 

Prophecy was to such an extent moral, and meant 
to influence the life of the people, that threatenings of 
evil may almost be said never to have been absolute. They 
were always revocable on certain conditions, at least to the 

1 Jer. 2G 12 . 


extent of being postponed. Jonah predicted, in what seemed 
an absolute manner, the destruction of Nineveh within forty 
days ; but on the repentance of the people the threatened evil 
was averted. And in the chapter of Jeremiah just cited, the 
prophecy of Micah regarding the destruction of the temple 1 
is regarded by the elders of Israel in Jeremiah's day as 
having been in the mercy of God revoked. " Then rose up 
certain of the elders of the land, and spake to the assembly of 
the people, saying, Micah the Morasthite prophesied in the 
days of Hezekiah king of Judah, saying, Thus saith the 
Lord of hosts ; Zion shall be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem 
shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the 
high place of a forest. Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all 
Judah put him to death ? Did he not fear the Lord, and 
entreat the favour of the Lord, and the Lord repented Him 
of the evil which He had pronounced against them." 2 

There were, no doubt, prophecies which were absolute. The 
promises of God were so; those that contained statements of the 
purposes of His grace essential to the salvation of men, as for 
example that the house of David should for ever bear rule in 
His kingdom, and many others which depended on His will 
alone. Yet even many prophecies of this kind contained an 
element of contingency in them, to this extent at least, that 
the conduct of men might retard, although it could never 
invalidate, their fulfilment. And it may be that what seems 
the postponement of the final glory of the Church, beyond the 
limits of the period at which it appeared to New Testament 
writers about to be realised, may be due to the backward 
conduct of the Church, to her slackness in evangelising the 
world, and to her want of faith and little readiness for 
the heavenly state. 

But the operation of this moral element in prophecy 
must not be emphasised unduly, or made the foundation 
of a theory to the effect that no prophetic predictions 
1 Mic. 3. 2 Jer. 26 17ff -. 


need be expected to be realised. This is a dispute which 
turns on the ambiguity of the term prophecy. Many of 
the prophecies were not predictions in the absolute sense. 
They were exhortations, or threateniugs of evil, meant to 
influence conduct, and thus avert the very evils threatened. 
Some of them, on the other hand, might be absolute predic- 
tions. But many even of those that were dependent on men's 
conduct might be fulfilled, because men persevered in their 
evil ways, or returned to them. Jerome had already observed 
this, saying that many prophecies were given not ut sed ne, 
that is, were given not in order to be, but lest they should 
be, fulfilled. No doubt it is generally the case that the 
prophesied evil did eventually ensue. Nineveh was ultimately 
destroyed, though the destruction was retarded. The house 
of God was at last overthrown, although its overthrow was 
mercifully postponed. 

Hence it becomes a very delicate operation to strike the 
balance, in such cases, between the moral element which 
introduced contingency into the prophecy, and the absolute 
element which lay in it as a prediction. But Jeremiah for- 
mulates the moral principle of prophecy when he says : " At 
what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, to pluck up, 
and to break down, and to destroy it ; if that nation, against 
which I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent 
of the evil that I sought to do unto them. And at what 
instant I shall speak concerning a nation, to build and to 
plant it ; if it do evil in My sight, and obey not My voice, 
then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would 
benefit them. Now therefore go to, speak to the men of 
Judah, Thus saith the Lord ; Behold, I frame evil against 
you, and devise a device against you : return ye now every 
one from his evil way." 1 Now this moral character of 
prophecy makes it to be an essential characteristic of 
prophecy, that the actual conditions of the prophet's time, 

1 Jer. IS 7 ' 11 . 


and the state of things and parties among which he lived, 
are the things which he makes the basis of his prophetic dis- 
courses. Therefore, from the historical allusions to parties 
within Israel and to events outside, such as the downfall of 
Babylon before Cyrus, we may infer the age of the prophecy 
in which they occur. 

The second principle laid down by Bleek is a more 
delicate one to handle. It is to the effect that, during their 
inspiration, the prophets always retained a clear consciousness, 
and in their consciousness were never mentally alienated 
from the external circumstances surrounding them ; the infer- 
ence being, that the circumstances appearing in any prophecy 
are those of the actual life of the prophet, and not those of a 
distant period of time, into which he was transported in 
prophetic ecstasy. 

In justice to Bleek, it is necessary to observe that he 
founds the principle on observation, and not on any 
theoretical judgment regarding the capabilities of the pro- 
phetic gift. He does not say that the prophets might not, 
in their state of inspiration, have been transported for a 
lengthened time into a distant period, and placed amidst 
circumstances unlike those of their own time. He limits him- 
self to saying that, in fact, as appears from observation, it 
was not of the nature of the prophetic inspiration that this 
should happen. It is necessary to remember that this is the 
real position which he takes, because the position is often 
misunderstood. He and those who agree with him are often 
represented as limiting the capabilities of prophetic inspira- 
tion ; in other words, as denying the possibility of God 
making known to men details of the distant future, or the 
possibility of these details being known by men, that is, as 
denying the possibility of any supernatural knowledge. 

Now, there seems to be certain proof in some of the 
prophets that they did predict isolated and contingent events 
at a distance from their own time. Thus Jeremiah says to 


ITananiab, a false prophet who prophesied that the Captivity, 
which Jeremiah had declared would last seventy years, would 
cease in two : " Hear now, Hananiah ; the Lord hath not 
sent thee ; but thou makest this people to trust in a lie. 
Therefore thus saith the Lord; Behold, I will send thee 
away from off the face of the earth : this year thou shalt 
die, because thou hast spoken rebellion against the Lord. 
So Hananiah the prophet died the same year in the 
seventh month." 1 Therefore it seenis to me that this 
second principle of Bleek's, if it be not based rigidly on in- 
duction of facts, but go the length of stating the limitations of 
prophetic inspiration, is from its nature somewhat precarious. 
It might be doubtful whether an induction from observation, 
seeing there is no principle, could be so wide as to be entirely 
trustworthy. At any rate, it is but fair to this author and 
to those who agree with him, to take notice that he does not 
base his principles on a priori grounds, or on any impossi- 
bility of such illumination of the prophet's mind as to give 
him detailed knowledge of distant events, and enable him to 
move among them as if they were present. He bases his 
principle on what he observes the prophetic ecstasy to be in 
fact. I suspect, however, that if a principle were sought for 
this peculiarity of what the prophetic ecstasy is in fact, it 
would have to be found in the author's first principle of the 
ethical character of prophecy. The prophetic ecstasy has the 
character and limitations which it has, because a capacity 
enabling the prophet to foresee distant details, by a trans- 
portation into the midst of the conditions and life of the 
Church or the world, centuries or even decades of years after 
the prophet's day, would have been morally useless to the 
people, and was, in fact, quite unnecessary for the exercise of 
the functions of prophecy, such as they were. Dr. Fairbairn, 
when cautioning students of prophecy against regarding it too 
exclusively as prediction, says : " When considered merely as 

1 Jer. 28 16 . 


a divine act of foresight, prophecy is but an evidence of God's 
foreknowledge, which, even in its highest exercise, is still only 
a natural attribute, standing in no necessary connection with 
spiritual aims and purposes. But what, if not to exhibit 
these, is the great design of all the revelations of Scripture ? 
They are given to tell not that God is, but what He is, what 
in the elements of His character, the principles of His 
government, in His purposes of mercy or judgment toward 
men. So that to contemplate the revelations of prophecy in 
their relation merely to the divine foresight, is to view them 
apart from what has ever been the higher aim of God's direct 
communications to men. And not only so, but the further 
error is naturally fallen into, of expecting prophecy to be 
more full and explicit in its announcements regarding future 
events than, from its inherent nature and immediate uses, it 
could properly be." x 

Thus the great argument for settling the age of a 
prophecy is based upon the moral character and purpose of 
prophecy. The prophet's aim was to influence men. There- 
fore he based his words on their condition, on the elements 
of their life before him, on the situation, whether moral or 
political, of his time, on the dangers that threatened, and on 
the people's attitude towards prominent forces then existing, 
attaching his announcement of principles to these, and open- 
ing up his general glimpses into the future, in order to indi- 
cate the final issue of these. Consequently, the circumstances 
that shine through a prophecy are to be considered those of 
the prophet's own day. 

This is the whole argument that may be called the 
argument beforehand, although it is an argument founded 
on two facts, both obtained from observation, namely, first, 
we find prophecy to be of this moral character, as we should 
expect it to be ; and, second, we find that particular prophets 
always do move among the circumstances of their own time. 

1 Fairbairn on Prophecy, p. 57. 


There are also various other arguments, subsidiary to 
this main one. Of these, one to which I may refer runs 
thus : Admitting that the prophets might give detailed pre- 
dictions of occurrences, and admitting that they might enjoy 
a prolonged transportation into the midst of circumstances 
that occurred long after their own time, and, indeed, without 
limiting in any way the manner of the prophetic ecstasy, the 
general impression produced upon our minds by a particular 
passage might be that it is not prophetic, but historical ; and 
we might come to the conclusion that the prophet is not look- 
ing forward to the condition of things to which he alludes, 
but is standing face to face with it. For example, in Isa. 64 
there is a prayer : " Oh that Thou wouldst rend the heavens 
and come down " ; and the petitioners go on as follows : " Be 
not wroth very sore, Lord, neither remember iniquity for 
ever. Our holy and our beautiful house, where our fathers 
praised Thee, is burned up with fire : and all our pleasant 
things are laid waste. Wilt Thou refrain Thyself for these 
things, Lord ? wilt Thou hold Thy peace, and afflict us 
very sore ? " l It is argued that the way in which the 
burning of the temple is introduced, and made the founda- 
tion of a prayer, produces the impression that it had taken 
place. The argument is not that the destruction of the 
temple is referred to. That would have been no argument. 
Micah predicted it more than a hundred years before it 
happened. The argument is that the manner of the refer- 
ence, and the whole aspect of the passage, suggest that the 
allusions in it are historical, and not prophetical. This kind 
of argument from the impression produced by the book itself 
may be applied very extensively. 

Lleek's manner of putting his main argument in terms 
of the prophetic inspiration, though it lends force to it, has 
something in it perhaps not quite happy. We know nothing 
of the prophetic inspiration, or of its manner of operation, 

1 Isa. 64 wr -. 


except what we learn from the results of it, that is, from 
the written prophecies. It is, therefore, safer to put the 
argument in terms of the facts revealed by these prophecies, 
and to say nothing of the prophetic ecstasy or inspiration. 
Anything like ecstasy was very rare, and it is safest to 
abstain from judgments concerning the prophetic state. It 
is sufficient to say that, in point of fact, the prophecies are 
usually based upon the actual circumstances of the prophet, 
so usually that when we find any prophet basing his discourses 
on any circumstances and events, the strong probability is 
that these were the events amidst which he actually lived 
and actually exercised his office. 

Two objections might possibly be made to the above 
reasoning. First, it may be said that to found an argu- 
ment on Amos and Hosea, on Jeremiah and Ezekiel and 
some parts of Isaiah, excluding other parts of Isaiah from 
our induction, is improper, and is a kind of begging the 
question. The prophecies Isa. 4066 are given under the 
name of Isaiah as much as chap. 7, and the induction 
ought to cover the whole field. To this it may be answered : 
First, that no doubt the fact, that these chapters are found 
attached to the prophecies of Isaiah, has its weight. But 
these prophecies, though evidently one composition, have no 
prophet's name and no date assigned to them immediately. 
It is not likely that Isaiah made a complete collection of 
his prophecies. In all probability, therefore, the present 
place of these prophecies is due to some collector. At least, 
this is possible ; and the possibility is enough. We know 
that editors of the Scriptures have occasionally assigned 
compositions to authors erroneously. For example, some 
Psalms are ascribed to David, which can hardly be his ; 
and some proverbs are put under the heading " Proverbs of 
Solomon " which are later than Solomon's day ; and the 
prophecies of Jeremiah exist in two editions, in which the 
chapters are very differently arranged. The fact that tradi- 


tion has assigned these prophecies to Isaiah is therefore 
not an absolute barrier in the way of opening the question. 
And, secondly, we must begin our investigations into the 
nature of prophecy on ground which is perfectly firm. 
We must start with prophecies of which the age is really 
known, such as Amos, Hosea, and Jeremiah. The conclu- 
sions drawn from these prophecies are sure, so far as these 
prophecies are concerned ; and these afford a very strong 
probability (of course, it is nothing more), with which we 
can go on to disputed prophecies. 

A second objection might be this. It is certain that all 
the prophets know of the Exile and even the Eeturn, Amos, 
Hosea, and Isaiah alike. Therefore the argument that the 
prophetic inspiration did not extend to the future, cannot be 
sustained. This is certainly the case ; and this is why Bleek's 
way of putting the argument is not quite happy. All the 
prophets do see into the future ; all those anterior to the 
Exile predict both the Exile and the Eeturn. Here the way 
in which the prophets respectively speak of the Exile would 
have to be examined, and their differences noted. Amos says 
in Jehovah's name : " I will carry you beyond Damascus " ; 
Hosea : " I will allure her into the wilderness " ; Isaiah : 
" There will be a great forsaking in the midst of the land." 
All the references of these prophets have two characteristics : 
first, the prophets themselves stand before the Exile ; that 
event is certain, but it is yet to come ; and, secondly, they 
refer to it briefly as a fact in the future, but with no details. 

In the second half of Isaiah, on the contrary, the prophet 
has the Exile behind him ; it has endured for a long time, 
and indeed is drawing to an end. The people are apos- 
trophised and exhorted to flee from Babylon and the 
Chaldeans, and yet the Chaldean empire did not arise till a 
hundred years after Isaiah. Secondly, the prophet's refer- 
ences to its conditions are vivid and detailed. Indeed, the 
author spends his life among the exiles, knows their 


thoughts, their despondencies, their blindness and deafness, 
their querulousness, their particular sins, and much more. 
The minuteness of his references is hardly surpassed by 
that of Amos and Hosea in regard to the condition of the 
people in the time when they lived. The impression pro- 
duced on the mind, when reading Isa. 40-66, is that the 
prophet speaks from personal observation and intercourse 
with the exiles. 

This applies not only to the prophet's references to the 
circumstances and mind of the exiles, but to his whole circle 
of ideas. For example, his attitude towards idolatry is 
quite different from that of earlier prophets. They combat 
idolatry in Israel, to which these chapters hardly allude. 
It is idolatry in itself, that he subjects to sarcastic treatment. 
It is Jehovah the true God and Israel His servant, on the 
one side, that he opposes to unreal gods and the nations 
who worship them, on the other. The author is almost a 
dogmatic theologian. Again, the Christology in these chapters 
is completely unlike that in previous prophets. In them, the 
Messianic or Davidic king is the most imposing figure of the 
future and the time of the end. Here, it is the Servant of 
Jehovah, the representative and embodiment of the idea 
of the people Israel, as having in it the light of God's 
word, and as subject to sorrow and suffering, and the whole 
idealisation of Israel as Jehovah's " servant " in evangelising 
the world, as the light of the Gentiles. Such an idea could 
hardly have arisen, while the monarchy still lasted, nor 
previous to the time of the extreme calamities and miseries 
of the Exile. 

Now, there cannot be a doubt that Bleek's canon, thus 
interpreted, is absolutely sound. It can be proved by the 
widest induction of facts. In general, prophets link on their 
prophecies to events, or tendencies, or forms of life and belief, 
of their own times. Otherwise, their prophecies would be 
both without purpose, and unintelligible. The connection of 


history and prophecy is organic. Word and fact are the 
counterparts of each other. The calamity or crisis or victory 
or redemption in history is made the subject of speech, and its 
meaning expounded in prophecy, and lessons are drawn from 
it, and warnings or promises attached to it. For neither the 
occurrence nor the prophecy was accidental. God meant 
them both to be at the time they came ; and He meant the 
first to furnish occasion for the second, and the second to be 
the exposition of the first. Prophecies which did not arise 
out of the life of the nation would not have been intelligible ; 
or, if intelligible, being without any connection with their 
history and experience, would have been quite destitute of 
interest to them. In general, therefore, the canon is one of 
the soundest and most essential to be held as a principle of 
the method of revelation as a whole. But it may be made 
a question whether it be of so rigid application that all 
exceptions to it are to be quite excluded. 

The canon, first of all, is of a positive kind. It affirms 
that the presence of certain marks in a prophecy determines 
its age unmistakably. Allusions to the Exile, to Babylon, to 
Persia, and such like, prove that the prophecy was delivered 
by a speaker actually face to face with all these things. 
Hence, in such a passage as Isa. 2 1 2 : "A grievous vision is 
declared unto me ; the treacherous dealer dealeth treacher- 
ously, and the spoiler spoileth. Go up, Elam : besiege, 
Media ; all the sighing thereof have I made to cease " : 
the ' sighing ' is that of the Jewish captive ; the treacherous 
dealer is the Chaldean monarchy ; and Persia is on its 
way to destroy it. Such a passage as this must belong to 
the time of the near end of the Exile. Again, take such 
a passage as Isa. 13-14. There we read: "Take up 
this proverb against the king of Babylon : How hath the 
oppressor ceased ! the golden city ceased ! . . . How art 
thou fallen from heaven, Lucifer, son of the morning; 
how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken 


the nations ! " Consequently this prophecy must also 
belong to a time near to the fall of Babylon. We shall 
cite but one other example in order to exhibit the work- 
ing of the rule. The chapters Isa. 4066 are all pitched 
in the tone of the Exile. Jerusalem has long been in 
ruins, the temple is destroyed, the cities of Judah laid 
waste, and the mission of the prophet is to comfort the 
people with the promise of a restoration that shall be for 
ever, and a glory that shall never fade. Thus we read : 
" I am the Lord that confirmeth the word of His servant ; 
that saith to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be inhabited ; and to 
the cities of Judah, Ye shall be built, and I will raise up 
the decayed places thereof : that saith of Cyrus, He is My 
shepherd, and shall perform all My pleasure; even saying 
to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built ; and to the temple, 
Thy foundation shall be laid." 1 Such words, it is argued, 
could not have been written unless the temple had been de- 
stroyed, and unless the years of the Exile had been wearing 
towards a close. The great prophecy, chaps. 4066, every- 
where presupposes such a condition of things, and its author 
must have been living at this era. 

Thus, by means of this rule, where it is applicable, the 
age of a prophecy may be ascertained. Of course, since the 
rule requires the positive presence of certain marks, it may 
in many cases be inapplicable. Bleek says again : " First, 
the circumstances then existing are not usually expressly 
stated in connection with the prophecy itself, but at the 
most are only hinted at, and as a rule merely inferred ; they 
are therefore often not easily to be discerned. Secondly, in the 
very deficient sources which are at our disposal as to the 
history of the people of Israel, there are only a small number 
of its epochs of which we have any knowledge sufficiently 
detailed. . . . Still we must keep close to the above rule." 2 

1 Isa. 44 26 . 

2 Bleek's Introduction, Venables' translation, vol. ii. p. 38. 


Moreover, while it appears that the canon is thus very 
partially applicable, it is but fair to remember that it is 
held by critics with varying degrees of strictness, and under 
admissions that, to some extent, modify its conclusions even 
in the circumstances where it may be applied. The canon 
is strictly a deduction drawn from the consideration of pro- 
phecies, the dates and circumstances of which are known. 
It is found that there are, in most of them, allusions to 
these circumstances. At any rate, where allusions do exist, 
they are always to the contemporary history and manners. 
Prophecy rises out of the history and the life. Of course, 
this deduction is strengthened by another deduction as to 
the main purpose of prophecy. It is moral, it is meant 
to teach, to inculcate the principles of the law. This is 
its first aim, and it only deserts the present for such 
flights into the future as may be effective in impressing the 

Now, a critic may hold this position about prophecy as 
a whole, without, however, making it his main position. 
He may take up his position in the rear of it, or in front 
of it. Bleek argues that, in point of fact, we find that 
the allusions in prophecy are truly to its historical circum- 
stances, and that it is ethical, directed to the morals and 
condition of its time. He does not enter into the question 
whether prophecy could be other than it is. It is sufficient 
for him that he so finds it. But a critic who is somewhat 
more thoroughgoing, while accepting Bleek's position, might 
affirm that one may be held still further back, namely, 
" Prophecy is of this kind, and it could be of no other kind." 
That Isaiah could transport himself into the conditions of 
the Exile, across two broad centuries of historical change, 
has been characterised as ' a psychological impossibility/ 
Prophecy does not exhibit such transpositions, nor was it 
possible that it could. 

On the other hand, a critic disposed to estimate the 


supernatural in revelation higher than Bleek, may, while 
not denying his general canon and its general applicability, 
take up a position in front of him, and feel doubtful as to 
whether it is reasonable or justifiable on this principle 
alone to settle any great question of criticism or interpreta- 
tion. He may maintain that, it being admitted that there 
are, in the prophets, predictions of contingent events, and 
that they were able to foresee and foretell such events, not 
merely by combination or wise conjecture, but by super- 
natural inspiration, there is nothing in the nature of the 
case that makes it impossible for a prophet to be trans- 
ported into a distant epoch of the world's history, and to 
move there for a time in thought and life continuously, 
having the Church in idea before him and in the conditions 
of that epoch, and to base his words entirely upon his ideal 
circumstances, making no allusions whatsoever to his actual 
historic place. The question now becomes one of probability. 
Thus both parties are thrown back upon other means 
of defence and attack. The assailants of the integrity of 
the book, having in their indisputable canon a very strong 
weapon, content themselves, in addition, with showing that 
the disputed passages exhibit all the marks of a different 
authorship from the genuine. The vocabulary is different ; 
the complexion of style, and the ideas, among which the 
author most willingly moves, are different. The defenders 
of the integrity, on the other hand, having at first nothing 
to oppose to the strong argument of their opponents except 
the statement that there is no impossibility, are under the 
necessity of bringing up as many additional forces as they 
can muster. Accordingly, besides maintaining that there is 
no impossibility in Isaiah transporting himself into the 
condition of the Exile, they proceed to adduce some par- 
ticular facts which seem to them to show that there was 
no unlikelihood that he should do so. We may look for 
a moment at some of the best of these. 


First, Isaiah was quite familiar with the idea of the 
Exile. Indeed, that idea was familiar to all prophetic men. 
There is hardly a prophet or writer who does not see that 
the inevitable issue of Israel's sad deflection from rectitude, 
and her inveterate idolatry and social dissoluteness, must be 
her dispersion and political dissolution. Isaiah, in perhaps 
his earliest vision, has this view presented to him : " Make 
the heart of this people fat. . . . Then said I, Lord, how 
long ? And He answered, Until the cities be wasted without 
inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be 
utterly desolate. And the Lord have removed men far away, 
and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land." 1 
Nay more, Isaiah actually names the Exile by anticipation : 
" My people are gone into captivity." 2 

Second, Isaiah was quite familiar with redemption from 
exile, an idea indeed common, like the idea of the Exile 
itself, to all the prophets, even the earliest. For instance, 
he says, " It shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord 
will set His hand again the second time (Egypt being the 
first) to recover the remnant of His people, which shall be 
left, from Assyria and from Egypt, etc. And He shall set 
up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the out- 
casts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah 
from the four corners of the earth." 3 And his predecessor 
Amos was familiar with both ideas of dispersion and 

Third, the above exile and restoration, no doubt, is 
predicted in connection with Assyria, though the prediction 
is valid for all connections. But Isaiah is also familiar 
with an exile into Babylon, for he says to Hezekiah : 
" Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house 
shall be carried into Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith 
the Lord. And thy sons shall be eunuchs in the palace 
of the kincr of Babvlon." 4 There is no reason to doubt the 

o */ 

1 Isa. G l(!f \ - Isa. 5 13 . 8 Isa. 11"'-. 4 Isa. 39 6f -. 


historical character of this prediction, whether the chapter 
was written by Isaiah or no. It is generally considered 
that these historical chapters, 3639, are the connecting link 
betweeen Isaiah's later and earlier prophecies, and that 
these verses furnish ground for the new position assumed 
in the later prophecies. 

And it may be added that this presentiment of exile 
and deliverance in Babylon is not peculiar to Isaiah, but 
common to him and his contemporary Micah, who thus 
addresses the Church : " Be in pain, and labour to bring 
forth, daughter of Zion, like a woman in travail : for 
now shalt thou go forth out of the city, and thou shalt 
dwell in the field, and thou shalt go even to Babylon ; and 
there shalt thou be delivered ; there the Lord shall redeem 
thee from the hand of thine enemies." 1 Here Micah agrees 
with Isaiah's position in his earlier chapters. In the later 
chapters, what is here a flight, or a glance, into the relations 
of the Exile, is a continuous abode and movement. Having 
thus removed to some degree, as it supposes, the improb- 
ability of Isaiah's authorship of the Exile prophecies, the 
defensive criticism advances to its positive task. It under- 
takes to show that these chapters were written by Isaiah. 

Its method here has a main argument as well as a 
subsidiary. The subsidiary argument is this, that in these 
concluding chapters there are allusions to things that 
existed only before the Exile ; passages, therefore, in which 
the author has broken through his ideal state, and opened 
his eyes on the real historic things about him. For ex- 
ample, 56 9 57 11 is a passage where the enemies of the 
people of Judah are summoned to approach, and swallow 
them up ; and the worship of Moloch is spoken of as 
practised in the deep valleys. Both Bleek and Ewald agree 
in considering such passages not to be by the prophet of 
the Exile. They explain them, however, as pieces which 

1 Mic. i 10 . 


that author has inserted in his own work, as Isaiah inserts 
chap. 2 1 " 5 . The defensive criticism, as I have said, considers 
them passages where the real historic position of Isaiah 
shines through the ideal one of the Exile. 

The main argument of the defenders of the integrity is 
that the earlier and the later prophecies form a unity. Now, 
a unity may be of various kinds. In critical questions, these 
kinds of unity are mainly sought to be shown : first, what 
one might call a linguistic unity, identity of style, sameness 
of phraseology and vocabulary ; second, what might be styled 
a psychological unity, sameness of subject, or sameness of 
treatment, where the subject is the same ; a connection, 
between earlier prophecies and later, of that kind which 
is known to exist between two stages of the same mind, 
widely separated as in early manhood and advanced old 
age, in other words, development both in subject and in 
the manner of treating it, and development of the kind 
one would expect. Seeds of thoughts may be flung out 
lavishly in the earlier prophecies, and be developed, with 
the more parsimonious care of old age, in the later. Lines 
and threads may be dropped once, but be taken up again, 
and carried further. For example, eschatological glimpses 
of things beautiful and far off may broaden out in the later 
work into an unchanging blaze of light : " Arise, shine, for 
thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon 
thee." Third, a unity of relation to other literature, that is, 
similarity in the method of quotation in both parts, either 
from other literature or in other literature. This positive 
argument has been carried out most fully by Caspari and 

Now, it will at once occur to a reader that these are very 
delicate arguments, and that great skill will be required to 
collect the materials, and a very sound judgment needed to 
dispose of them rightly. For example, supposing it could 
be shown that there is great linguistic affinity between both 


parts of the Book of Isaiah, what inference would such a 
fact justify ? Would it justify the inference that the two 
parts were by one author ? or would it merely account for 
some collector of scattered prophecies thinking them the 
work of one author and thus putting them together ? That 
some affinity exists may be admitted. But while this may be 
sufficient to account for the two parts being classed together, 
it may be no easy matter to say whether it is such an 
affinity as implies unity of authorship or only imitation, 
whether conscious or no. 

Again, with regard to the psychological unity, the same 
may be said. It is a delicate argument in any case, and 
is more precarious in Scripture than elsewhere. There is 
said to be a preparation, in many ways, in the first half for 
the second. But all earlier Scripture is a preparation for 
later. There is that unity and advancement in Scripture, 
as a whole, which may give it an apparent psychological 
oneness, even with a diversity of authorship. But, again, 
if there were this unity, while it might be precarious at 
once to conclude oneness of authorship, it might explain, 
at any rate, how the parts have been attributed to one 

I cannot help remarking that there is very great apparent 
diversity between the Christology, for example, of the two 
divisions. The Christology of the early chapters of Isaiah 
is of the usual kind, and the Messiah is a king ; but in the 
later, the Messiah is the whole covenant people, the 'idea,' 
so to speak, of Israel, showing what purposes God had in 
choosing it, what endowments He bestowed on it, and what 
issues He will yet accomplish by it. These purposes and 
endowments and issues, gathered together into an ideal per- 
son, constitute the ' Servant of the Lord.' He is the ' idea ' 
of Israel. No doubt, as God's purposes cannot come to 
nought, this ' idea ' shall somehow become real. Thus, all 
of the nation being stripped off, both in qualities and number, 


that does not realise the idea, there shall stand out at last an 
Israel, servant of the Lord, single in personality and perfect 
in triteness to God's idea. But it is very obvious that this 
is a phenomenon in the Christology of Scripture perfectly 
unique, and furnishing at least a great apparent discrepancy 
between the circle of ideas in the earlier and the later parts 
of Isaiah. Whether there may not after all be a profounder 
unity, need not be discussed. But the question before us is 
whether two such different conceptions of the Christology are 
probable in the same author, and particularly whether the 
latter conception of the suffering Israel, reduced down to its 
very essence, and everything adventitious stripped off it, 
could have arisen in a prophet's mind except through the 
painful discipline of many years of wasting oppression. To 
my mind, this Christology of the second half of the book 
furnishes the strongest argument against its authorship by 
Isaiah. It is not only unlike Isaiah's known Christology, 
but it is unlike what we should expect the Christology of 
his era to be. It is a Christology that seems like a protest 
against the fear beginning to seize the people's mind, that 
they were going to become extinct as a nation, and that all 
the hopes centred in them as a people were completely to 

Of course, conservative criticism is possessed of an argu- 
ment which Higher Criticism can do almost nothing to get 
over, namely, the argument from tradition. This argument 
is twofold, and owes all its effectiveness to its absolute sim- 
plicity. It first states the fact that all the prophecies have 
been generally ascribed to Isaiah, and then asks, with an 
air of triumph : If these prophecies are not all by Isaiah, 
how explain the loss of the real author's name ? As a 
Princeton professor eloquently puts it : " The oblivion of the 
author's name and history is more inexplicable, not to say 
incredible, than anything about the other doctrine can be 
to a believer in inspiration. This is a difficulty which no 


ingenuity has ever yet been able to surmount. That a 
writer, confessedly of the highest genius, living at one of 
the most critical junctures in the history of Israel, when 
the word of God began to be precious and prophetic in- 
spiration rare, should have produced such a series of pro- 
phecies as this, with such effects upon the exiles, and even 
upon Cyrus, as tradition describes, and then have left them 
to the admiration of all future ages without so much as a 
trace of his own personality about them, is a phenomenon of 
literary history compared with which the mystery of Junius 
is as nothing. . . . Even this, however, though sufficiently 
incredible, is not all we are required to believe ; for we must 
also grant that these anonymous though admirable writings 
were attached to those of a prophet who nourished in the 
preceding century, and with whose productions they are said 
to have scarcely anything in common ; and that this mysteri- 
ous combination took place so early as to be beyond the 
oldest tradition of the Hebrew canon, and was so blindly 
acquiesced in from the first, that not the faintest intimation 
of another author or another origin was ever heard of for two 
thousand years," etc. 

To answer this, however, one has only to refer to the Book 
of Job, a work probably belonging to the same age, equally 
remarkable for brilliancy and power, though of a different 
kind, and of the author of which history has preserved no 
trace. In Hebrew literature there is a very strange and 
impressive impersonality. The authors did not speak from 
themselves but from God ; and, having delivered their mes- 
sage, they retire from view, forgetting themselves, and being 
speedily forgotten in name by others. 

As I am not so much interested at present in arguing 
the question as in indicating its general bearings, I may 
refer to one or two other objections. It is said, for example, 
that these chapters are repeatedly quoted in the New Testa- 
ment under the name of Isaiah, as by St. Paul in Eom. 10 16< 20 : 


" For Isaiah saith, Lord, who hath believed our report ? " 1 and 
again : " Isaiah is very bold, and saith, I was found of them 
that sought me not." 2 How shall we regard such statements ? 
Now, I suppose every one will admit that the Apostle Paul 
is not in these passages arguing the authorship of Isaiah. 
The question whether Isaiah was the writer of these pas- 
sages, was not before his mind. Such a question had not 
been raised in his day. Not being, therefore, before him, can 
we say that he has given any decision upon it ? Paul does 
not speak to that question. He uses phraseology current in 
his day, and cites a passage under the name by which it went 
in his time, and still goes in our time. Are we entitled to 
plead his authority on one side or other of this question, 
of which probably he never heard ? His language may be 
evidence of how men thought and spoke in his time, evidence 
that these chapters went under the name of Isaiah, and formed 
part of the Book of Isaiah ; but is it evidence of any other 

Principal Cunningham, in discussing the question, how 
far obiter dicta and allusions in the Fathers are to be pressed 
as evidence of their deliberate opinions, says : " The first thing 
which in fairness ought to be attended to is the question 
whether or not the author ever had the precise point con- 
troverted present to his mind." And he proceeds to argue 
that, unless he was speaking formally on the question, his 
words cannot be held as evidence of his opinion in regard to 
it. They can only be evidence of the kind of general opinion 
and mode of speech prevailing in his day. This law of 
evidence he characterises as "an obvious dictate of common 
sense, confirmed by manifold experience." 3 Now, must we 
not apply the same principles of evidence to the Scriptures ? 
The apostle's whole interest lies in the quotation. Does not 
a fair use of evidence lead to the conclusion that on the 
question whether Isaiah was really the author of the quotation 
1 Isa. 53 1 . 2 Isa. 65 1 . 3 Historical Theology, i. 198. 


such a point never having been before his rnind he has 
really said nothing to his readers or to us ? 

Again, some writers argue that if the author of these 
prophecies was not Isaiah, then the actual author ' palmed 
them off' on that prophet, and gave his own productions 
currency under the fame of his great name. Such an argu- 
ment ought not to be used unless there be no escape from 
it. It is a moral argument ; and a fair argument, if we are 
compelled to use it. But in this case we are under no such 
compulsion. Many other explanations of the fact that these 
prophecies are united to Isaiah's are conceivable and possible. 
There is not in all these chapters the faintest allusion to 
Isaiah, or any attempt to speak in his name, or connect any- 
thing said with him. And then, as to the fact of the prophecies 
being now connected with writings of Isaiah, there is not the 
slightest evidence that it was their author who so connected 
them. The connection may be due to those who collected 
the precious fragments of prophecy together, persons living 
probably long after the Exile. Nor can it be at all held cer- 
tain that these collectors attached the prophecies to Isaiah's 
writings because they believed them written by him. The 
prophecies in all the great prophetic books are found arranged 
not chronologically, but in groups according to subjects treated, 
so that prophecies, far separated in time of delivery, stand 
side by side. For example, Isa. 28 stands united with 
29-33, though they belong to periods of time at least twenty 
years apart. Whether this arrangement be due to the 
authors, or to those who arranged the canon, is unimportant. 
Now, the historical section in Isaiah, chaps. 3639, ends with 
a prophecy that Judah shall be carried captive into Babylon. 
It was quite natural, therefore, to connect with this prophecy 
others occupied with the restoration from Babylon. Of 
course, if Isaiah were their author, this would be the proper 
place for these prophecies. That is true ; but what I am 
desirous of saying is that, supposing another prophet to be 


their author, there is no ground for charging him with a 
fraud, nor even any certain ground for charging collectors 
with an error of judgment. 

There is a point in regard to the order of the books in 
the canon, which is unquestionably of some importance here. 
The order in the oldest Jewish MSS. is Jeremiah, Ezekiel, 
Isaiah. This must surely imply a consciousness on the part 
of the collectors that elements of Isaiah belong to a date 
later than Ezekiel. 

There is only one other thing I should like to emphasise. 
The question is one of fact and criticism exclusively, and not 
a matter either of faith or practice. Such questions ought to 
be kept as far away as possible from all interference with the 
articles of religion. How can it affect one's religious condi- 
tion whether one believes Isaiah to be the single author of 
the prophecies attributed to him, or to have had others 
joined with him ? And I wish to say that I think we ought 
to repudiate and resent the attempts that are made to make 
this question one of religious belief ; and to endeavour so to 
place the question that it do not become so. 

Now, perhaps the following procedure in such cases might 
be recommended : 

1. It is well always to look at the proposition which 
is the subject in dispute, and to satisfy ourselves as to its 
character in itself, that is to say, whether, apart from any 
consequences which may follow from its connection with other 
circumstances, it be or be not in itself a harmless proposition. 
The proposition in this case is : that not Isaiah the son of 
Amoz, but another prophet, is the author of these prophecies. 
Now, it can be of no consequence to us in itself who was 
their author. Isaiah was not the only inspired prophet of 
God, though he may have been the greatest of them. The 
writings that come from the hand of other prophets are 
to us no less the word of God than his. What gives Scrip- 
ture its value and authority to us is not that Moses or 


Isaiah or David wrote it, but that the writers of it, whoever 
they were, were commissioned by God to give it to His 
Church, and that in it they expressed to the Church His will. 
The proposition, therefore, in itself, apart from any complica- 
tions which it may occasion, is a harmless proposition. 

2. Again, as a just rule for our conduct in dealing with 
such questions, seeing that in dealing with them we shall have 
to take a certain attitude also towards our fellow-Christians 
who have adopted the opinions in dispute, I would say 
that we ought not to be hasty in complicating a proposition 
harmless in itself, or in bringing it into connections, or 
attaching to it consequences, that raise questions of prin- 
ciple. I mean, that we ought to look carefully about the 
question, with the view of seeing whether it may not really 
be free of any necessary evil consequences, and not be 
hasty, but rather slow to mix it up with other matters 
which give it a questionable or dangerous appearance. We 
should always be more ready, if an opinion be harmless in 
itself, to keep it clear of connections which give it a doubtful 
look, than to bring it into relations of this kind. This is due 
from us both in the interests of truth, and in the interests of 
a just freedom of opinion. Many an opinion is proscribed, 
not because it is in itself of consequence, but because 
at first sight it may seem, if admitted, to draw doubt- 
ful consequences with it. But these consequences are 
often associated with it hastily and without reflection, and 
because we have been accustomed to think in a certain 
manner, and to connect certain things together. And before 
attaching these consequences to an opinion in itself harmless, 
we ought always to consider carefully whether they follow 
necessarily, or whether a view may not be taken, which keeps 
the original opinion clear of them. 



THE canonical prophets are those whose prophecies have 
come down to us in the various prophetical books of the 
Old Testament. From what we have already said about 
prophecy, it is evident that the most general classification 
of prophets would be into three classes : (1) those who 
prophesied by act, as Abraham by immigrating into Canaan ; 
(2) those who prophesied by word, like Elijah and Elisha ; 
and (3) those who not only prophesied by word, but also 
committed their prophecies to writing. It is with the last 
class only that we have now to deal. At first the writing 
prophets were politicians and statesmen as well as their 
predecessors, the speaking prophets. But they did not head 
revolutions as Elisha did. They withdrew from external, 
national, and party conflicts. But, so long as the kingdom of 
Israel remained a State, the prophets of Jehovah could not 
cease to be statesmen ; for it was their duty, according to 
the exigencies of the time, to warn, counsel, and, if need 
be, oppose the rulers of their nation. The only weapon, 
however, which the prophets now use is the word of God 
which is in their mouth ; and long before this order of 
prophetic men ceased, they had reached the conviction that 
the destruction of the nation was inevitable, a conviction 
that they had courage enough to proclaim openly both to 
rulers and ruled. 

The best way, therefore, of grouping the canonical 


prophets is according to the world-power with which Israel 
had to do at the time. 

Amos, c. 760-750. 
Hosea, c. 750-737. 
Isaiah, 740-700. 
Micah, c. 724 and later. 
Zephaniah, c. 627. 
Nahum, c. 610-608. 

Jeremiah, c. 626586. 
Habakkuk, c. 605-600. 
Ezekiel, c. 593-573. 


Isaiah, chaps. 13-14, 2 1 1 - 10 34-35 ? 

Deutero -Isaiah, c. 540. 

Haggai, c. 520. 

Zechariah, chaps. 1-8, c. 520. 

Malachi, c. 460-450. 

Probably later, at all events after the Eestoration, Joel, 
Jonah, Obadiah (in present form), Isa. 2427, Zech. 914. 

All these prophets have the same general system, but 
individual doctrines always receive the modification which 
circumstances and the times require. 

1. They all start with the belief in a personal God, 
whom they name Jehovah. He is God of Israel. He 
brought them up out of Egypt. He drove out the Amorites 
before them, whose height was as the cedars. However the 
Semitic mind reached the idea of God, personality was always 
an element in this idea. The God might only be one of 
many, might be only God of this territory or of that, might 
possess in perfection only this quality or the other, but He 
was always a person. It is doubtful if any abstract force 
ever was deified by the Semitic mind. Baal, the god of the 


Phoenicians, was not primarily the abstract force of the life of 
nature, but either the sun, in which this force resided, or, 
primarily, the personal Creator ; though, as far as this earth is 
concerned, creative energy seeming to reside in the sun, Baal 
became identified with it. This existence of the personal 
God, Jehovah, was held so firmly by all the prophets, that 
it seemed to them to be connection with Him --mission 
from him that made any one a prophet. Besides the great 
attributes of unity and spirituality given to Jehovah in the 
Law, the prophets assign to Him the loftiest attributes both 
physical and ethical. 1 It may be safely said that no advance 
upon the doctrine of God has been made in the New 
Testament over the Old except in this : the Old Testament 
deals with Israel as a whole. God loves Israel and calls him : 
" When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called My 
son out of Egypt." Israel is His firstborn son ; individual 
Israelites are less spoken of. In the New Testament, God 
through Christ enters into relations with the individual. In 
the Old, all is national ; in the New, all is personal. 

2. The next doctrine much made of by the prophets 
is that of the. kingdom of God. When Israel came out of 
Egypt, it was said to her, " Ye shall be to Me a kingdom of 
priests, and an holy nation." Israel is this kingdom of God. 
The nations round about are not in the kingdom of God. God 
reigns over Israel. He has His temple or palace in Israel. 
He is present there in the luminous smoke over the cherubim. 
" I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and lifted up, and 
His train filled the temple." There is hardly any truth 
so fundamental as this, that Israel, the then existing people 
or nation, in the forms in which it then existed, is the 
kingdom of God. It is not Israel, it is Israel in the then 
visible forms of its life, that is God's kingdom. If this be 
kept in mind, such Psalms as the 2nd, the 72nd, and others 
are plain enough. It is commonly said that Israel is the 

1 Comy. Ps. 139. 


type of the true kingdom of God ; that its territory, or 
Canaan, is a type of a Christian's privileges ; that its enemies 
are a type of the world, the Christian's foe or the Church's 
foe. If by type be meant illustration or example, then this 
language may be suitable. But Israel was not a type of 
the kingdom of God ; it was God's kingdom as much, though 
not so perfectly, as the Christian Church. Its enemies were 
the enemies of the kingdom of God. That was the form 
God's kingdom had in those days. It has another form now. 
The form which as the Christian Church it has now is 
a more perfect form : it is free from the restrictions of 
nationality and local limitation ; it has got quit of the 
material or carnal ordinances of sacrifices and divers washings, 
and special robes and much else. It has not only another 
but a greatly higher form. Yet the Jewish people, in the 
form it then had, was no less the kingdom of God than is the 
Christian Church in the form admittedly more perfect 
which it now has. We look for new heavens and a new 
earth ; and then the kingdom of God shall have still another 
form, differing how much from the present, who can say ? 

Accordingly, in reading the prophets, we must read them 
as speaking of a real kingdom of God when they speak of 
Israel, speaking of it as it then was. And when we ask 
ourselves, How much of what each prophet says, may we 
expect to be literally accomplished ? we must bear in mind 
that the form of the kingdom of God has altered, that 
the conditions under which the prophet spoke are gone, 
and can never return, that he threw great ideas of the 
kingdom of God into the conditions of his own day, and 
looked for their realisation ere these conditions should pass 
away. But his ideas have not yet been realised, and the 
conditions of his time have passed. Therefore we must dis- 
tinguish between his ideas and the form of them, and look 
for the ideas to be realised, although in quite altered circum- 
stances from those in which he anticipated their fulfilment. 


In reading the prophets, we must endeavour to seize their 
great moral and religious ideas, remembering that the form in 
which they cast the ideas is peculiar to their time. They 
are men of ideas or principles. They are men entrusted 
with the conduct of the kingdom of God. They move it 
forward ; they forecast its issue. Hence the prophets differ 
in their manner of representing the same truths. They do 
not contradict one another ; but various prophetic ages differ 
as much as the various ages of the Christian Church. Each 
prophet has special work to do in his own age, special 
difficulties to face, special forms of life to apply the truth to. 
And truth so applied assumes different forms ; and a truth 
that was fundamental and momentous in one age falls 
into a secondary place in the age succeeding, and another 
truth comes to the front. It was given to the prophets to 
develop the truths of the kingdom of God out of the neces- 
sities of the successive stages of the national life of Israel. 
The truth of God was not revealed out of connection with 
the people's life. The prophets were the leaders in the life 
of the people, a life as real and true as the life of the 
Christian Church. Then, God revealed His truth in the 
prophets, as well as through institutions and history. Now, 
He enables men to educe it from the perfect words of Jesus 
Christ, and of the men who have given an account of Him. 

3. But another truth the prophets make much of is the 
imperfection of Israel. This kingdom of God was not perfect. 
Indeed, it was so imperfect that it contained in itself the 
germs of dissolution. The kingdom of God cannot fail, but 
this form of it must cease. This is the prophetic doctrine of 
Israel's sin and dissolution. It must be remembered that the 
prophets were statesmen in the kingdom of God. They were 
public teachers. Hence it is of the destinies of the kingdom 
that they speak. They look at Israel's sins as affecting the 
kingdom, as ensuring its destruction. The individual's sins 
as burdening his conscience are less referred to. It is in the 


Psalms that we find reference to this effect of sin upon the 
individual soul ; in such Psalms, for example, as the 6th, the 
32nd, and the 51st. Everything is looked at by the prophets 
in its reference to the kingdom of God. No doubt they 
assail individuals ; but it is the effect of their sin upon the 
fortunes of the kingdom that interests the prophets most. 
" Ah sinful nation," says Isaiah, " a people laden with 
iniquity, a seed of evil doers, children that are corrupted : 
they have forsaken the Holy One of Israel." Hence, too, 
even the doctrine of immortality in the Prophets is one of 
Israel's immortality. The vision of the dry bones in Ezekiel 
is a vision of Israel's restoration ; God will bring the tribes 
of Israel out of their graves. The doctrine of personal im- 
mortality comes out again in the Psalms, such as the 16th and 
17th, the 49th, and the 73rd. All that is constitutional, so 
to speak, finds expression in the prophets ; all that is personal, 
in the Psalms and other poetical books like Job and Ecclesi- 
astes. This doctrine of Israel's dissolution is common to all the 
prophets. " Behold the eyes of the Lord are upon the sinful 
kingdom, and I will destroy it from off the face of the earth," l 
says Amos. " Oh Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself," says 
Hosea. " Samaria shall become desolate : they shall fall by 
the sword : their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their 
women with child shall be ripped up." " Therefore shall 
Zion for your sake be ploughed as a field, and Jerusalem shall 
become heaps," said Micah, a hundred and twenty years 
before that catastrophe ensued. 

Closely connected with this doctrine of the destruction 
of Israel is that of Israel's restoration, when purified by the 
fires of affliction. Not all Israel, but only the remnant 
shall be saved. " I will bring again the captivity of Judah 
and Jerusalem," says Joel ; " for in Mount Zion and in Jeru- 
salem shall be those delivered, as the Lord hath said, and 
among the remnant, those whom the Lord doth call." 3 "I 

1 Amos 9 8 . - Hos. 13 lli . z Joel 2 3 - 3 1 (Hub. 3 n 4 1 ). 


will sift the house of Israel among all nations," says Amos, 
" like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain 
fall upon the earth. In that day I will raise up the taber- 
nacle of David that is fallen." l " The remnant shall return," 
says Isaiah. 

4. With this destruction and return of Israel is connected 
the doctrine of the day of the Lord, the great judgment-day. 
Now these are the main prophetic doctrines. The most 
fruitful of them all was naturally the doctrine of the kingdom 
of God, because this could be developed on so many sides. 
On some of its sides it is identical with the doctrine of the 
Messiah. This is a doctrine with which I have not yet 
dealt. The earlier prophets do not refer to it much. The 
great prophets of the Northern kingdom, Elijah and Elisha, 
are not represented as referring to it at all. Amos has a 
single allusion, that about the tabernacle of David, which I 
have just quoted and that is only an allusion to the Davidic 
house. It is in the prophecies of the Assyrian age par- 
ticularly, especially those of the contemporary prophets, 
Isaiah and Micah that the doctrine of the Messiah is most 
profoundly developed. 

The truths of the Old Testament form a gradual revela- 
tion ; they are worked out in the history and life of Israel. 
Hence a truth effloresces bursts out with a special splendour 
at certain epochs of the people's experience. The doctrine 
of the Messiah appears chiefly in the form of the doctrine of 
the king. Now, two series of circumstances may bring the 
kingship into prominence : it will effloresce at the institu- 
tion of the kingly office, and it will also effloresce at a crisis 
like that in the time of Ahaz and Hezekiah, when, under the 
assaults of foreign enemies, the kingly family is threatened 
with extinction. There are two main epochs of prophecy 
relating to Messiah the King. The first is the time of the 
early monarchy, when great hopes were entertained of the 

1 Amos 9 9 . 


Davidic house, particularly of its first members, David and 
Solomon. Then the true idea of the king and the kingdom 
first dawned on men's minds, and those wise and powerful 
monarchs seemed about to realise it. The second is that 
time of extreme danger, when the monarchy, threatened with 
extinction, rallied all the best men about it, and when its 
true idea again filled their minds, and they refused to allow 
the thought of its destruction to find a place in their 
hearts. To the former of these epochs belong the splendid 
cycle of Messianic Psalms relating to the kingdom, parti- 
cularly the 2nd and the 110th, perhaps the 72nd, and, as 
some think, the 45th. To the latter belong the extraordinary 
prophecies of Iminanuel, the Virgin's son, the Mighty God, 
the Prince of Peace, the Everlasting Father, in Isa. 710, and 
those concerning Bethlehem Ephratah in Micah. These are 
the prophecies of the Messiah's glory. 

A third series of Messianic prophecies is of quite 
another kind. They belong to a later epoch, when destruction 
did not threaten, but had come upon, Israel ; when the people 
were in exile, and menaced with extinction as a people. 
Then the idea, not so much of the kingly house the 
thoughts connected with which had been almost exhausted 
by earlier prophets as of the people itself, the prophetic 
people, the people entrusted with the truth of God, the 
messenger of God among the nations, the servant of the 
Lord upon the earth, took possession of the minds of the 
prophets and was developed on all sides, in its sorrows 
and sufferings, in its humility and obedience, in the protec- 
tion and guardianship of it by God, and in its possession 
of the truth and the light. This idea of Israel, the Servant 
of Jehovah, thus expanded, became another very fruitful 
Messianic truth. But this truth, as I have said, belongs to 
a later time, to that of the Babylonian Exile, when the 
people, scattered among the nations, seduced by their 
idolatries, enslaved by their tyrannical rulers, seemed 


melting away, and on the point of losing its very name and 

As a specimen of early Messianic prophecies, we may take 
the 72nd Psalm. 1 The heading is usually rendered ' For 
Solomon ' ; but the more correct translation is, ' By Solomon.' 
The Psalm itself is a prayer for the king of the kingdom 
of God. " Give the king Thy judgments, God, and Thy 
righteousness unto the king's son." The kingdom is a 
righteous kingdom, and the king has the very righteousness 
of God. The judgments he executes are such judgments as 
God would execute, were He king. " Thou lovest righteous- 
ness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God hath anointed 
thee with the oil of joy above thy fellows." 2 This is the 
fundamental idea of the kingdom righteousness. Out of 
this all its other characteristics develop. Israel's God is 
an ethical conception ; His kingdom is the perfect realising 
of human morality. First, the result of this righteousness 
is peace : the mountains shall bring forth peace to the 
people. Second, this righteousness ensures eternity to the 
kingdom ; for righteousness contains no element of corrup- 
tion within it that could, at however remote a time, cause 
dissolution : " They shall fear Thee as long as the sun and 
moon endure." " Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom." 
And, third, its righteousness ultimately secures its univer- 
sality. All things decay before righteousness ; it is a 
conquering power. Men from all sides seek the benefits 
of such a kingdom. 

" He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, 
And from the Ptiver unto the ends of the earth." 

The main idea of the Psalm is the thought of a righteous 
king. Matthew Arnold has emphasised not too strongly the 

1 For a fuller discussion of this important Psalni, cf. Davidson's Biblical 
and Literary Essays, pp. 157-175. 
* Ps. -157. 


idea of righteousness. It is the fundamental idea of the 
kingdom of God. The righteous Lord loveth righteousness. 
The other truth which may be held the correlative of it 
is nearly equally prominent in the prophets, namely, the 
truth that evil is always disastrous. This idea of the 
vindictive righteousness of God is so prominent in the 
prophets, that some have held it to be their great moral 
doctrine. " Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself." 1 The 
wicked nations perish by their own wickedness. This is one 
of the great uses of the Old Testament, that it lays bare 
the principles of God's government of men. God governed 
Israel and the peoples on no other principles than He 
governs us ; but the principles of His governing Israel were 
always apparent ; for the prophets announced them. These 
men were like moral reflectors, in which the principles of 
God's dealings could always be seen. Hence prophecy has 
been called the philosophy of history. The prophet was, 
so to speak, the conscience or consciousness of the historical 
period in which he lived. And this is, to us in these later 
times, the chief value of the Old Testament. 

The main ideas of the Psalm, I repeat, are those of a 
righteous king, reigning amid perfect peace, exercising an 
universal sway, and having a government that shall have no 
end. These are the thoughts of the Psalm. They are the 
wishes at least of the writer. He ventures to pray for 
such a thing for some king or other, for some Jewish king. 
He does not regard it as a thing impossible, that a Jewish 
king should reign in God's righteousness, give out God's 
perfect decisions, and rule over a monarchy embracing 

We ask, of whom docs the Psalmist venture to antici- 
pate such things ? Well, it seems to me that the main 
thing, first of all, is the fact of such anticipations existing 
at all. The Psalmist is speaking of the Jewish king and 

1 Hos. is 9 . 


the Jewish kingdom, and in all sobriety he dares express 
the wish that a king shall reign in righteousness, that his 
rule shall be one of peace, and that his reign may be over 
all the earth. He speaks of a Jewish kingdom. The 
Jewish State was the kingdom of God. It may be difficult 
to say of whom the writer hopes such things. It seems 
to me a matter of extremely little importance. It is of 
the king of the kingdom of God that he hopes them. He 
may have spoken of Solomon. In those early times high 
hopes were entertained of him. His name meant prince 
of peace. God spoke of him to his father, and promised 
that He would give peace and quiet to Israel in his day. 
He himself sought wisdom to govern rather than riches, 
He raised the kingdom of Israel to an empire. His name 
and power were known both in Europe and in Africa and 
in the distant Indies. There were on all sides connected 
with his reign and himself tendencies, which if they never 
went so far as to realise the hopes here expressed, may 
at least have suggested them. And however it is to be 
explained, Hebrew prophets did look many a time for the 
perfect incoming of the kingdom of God in their own day, 
just as, on the other side, they looked for the great day of 
the Lord to fall in their own time. 

The hearts of the Hebrew prophets were filled with 
great moral anticipations. No men could detect so sharply 
as they the subtle moral currents of the world. Their ears 
and senses were preternaturally acute to the footfalls of 
Jehovah. They heard Him, as one heard the sound in the 
mulberry trees ; but times and seasons were hid from them. 
It is not to be regarded as an absurd thing to suppose 
that some of the early Davidic kings might bring the 
kingdom to its perfection. However, if such an idea was 
entertained, the day of disenchantment was at hand. The 
immoralities and follies of Solomon's later years, the fatal 
disruption of the kingdom in the days of his successor, must 


have effectually dispelled such anticipations. Henceforth the 
outlook of the prophet is much farther forward. Between 
him and the perfect kingdom and the perfect righteous king 
there lies the mournful era of Israel's coming dissolution. 
That era overpast, Israel shall return purified ; Judah and 
Israel shall be re-united under David their king. A new 
State shall rise, and all nations shall be subject to it : 

" Arise, shine ; for thy light is come, 
And the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. 
And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, 
And kings to the brightness of thy rising." 



THERE is a personage whom we first meet with in the 
prophecy of Micah who has always appeared to me to 
be invested with a certain interest. His history and 
antecedents are obscure ; and judgments, by no means 
unanimous, have been passed on him. The personage I 
mean is the False Prophet. We find Micah saying : 
" Thus saith the Lord concerning the prophets that make 
My people err, that bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace. 
And as for him that putteth not into their month, they 
even sanctify a war against him. Therefore night shall 
be unto you, that ye shall have no vision." l And of the 
people who heard these prophets gladly, he says : " If a 
man should be saying, I will prophesy unto thee of wine 
and of strong drink ; he should be the prophet of this 
people." 2 And speaking again apparently with reference 
both to the prophets and to those who believed in them, 
he says : " Prophesy not, they keep prophesying : they shall 
not prophesy of these things; indignities have no end." 3 
This is the first time that this figure comes conspicuously 
before us in the prophetic writings, but it is frequently 
encountered afterwards, and is particularly familiar in the 
days of Jeremiah, who had much to suffer at the hands 
of this class. 

In the history, no doubt, we meet with such prophets 
very early ; and even Hosea refers to them, saying, when 

1 Mic. 3 5f -. Mic. 2 11 . 3 Mic. 2". 



he addresses the priests : " Therefore shalt them fall in the 
day, and the prophet also shall fall with thee in the night, 
and I will destroy thy mother," l that is, the community of 
Israel ; but here for the first time the prophetic wrath is 
concentrated upon them as a distinct class. Jeremiah's 
indignation against them culminates in his celebrated 23rd 
chapter ; and Ezekiel attacks with equal energy " the 
foolish prophets that follow their own spirit, and have 
seen nothing." 2 He compares them to foxes among the 
ruins. Among these they dig and burrow, and consequently 
increase the condition of ruin and downfall. The ruins, of 
course, symbolise the disordered and broken-down condition 
of the State. The prophets find themselves at home in 
these disastrous circumstances ; there is employment for 
them. But their efforts are of a kind fitted only to in- 
crease the ruin ; their counsels and operations only bring 
fresh disasters and judgments from the hand of God. 

This prophet also uses another figure to describe their 
conduct : " The people built a bad wall, and these men 
daubed it with untempered mortar." 3 The people's futile 
projects for self-defence received the equally futile approval 
and applause of the prophets. These men had no higher 
wisdom and delight than the mass of the people; they 
were unable to suggest any true line of conduct in these 
disastrous times, and they had not judgment or independence 
enough to condemn those initiated by the people in their 
folly. But, being prophets, they must do something to keep 
up their credit. When a weak man cannot originate any- 
thing, he acquires an appearance of strength and wisdom 
by his hearty approval of the schemes of others, saying, 
" I approve of this, and give my sanction to it. Indeed, 
it is the very thing I should have suggested." It is 
disastrous when a man who is weak and without wisdom 
and independence is set over other men. His office gives 

1 Hos. 4 5 . - Ezck. 13 2ff -. 3 Ezck. :3 10fr -. 


him an influence which he feels he ought to exercise ; and 
if he has not wisdom and independence, he will weakly 
daub with his untempered mortar the tottering wall which 
others build. 

From the point of view which we now occupy, it strikes 
us as strange that there should have been false prophets 
in Israel. The phenomenon of prophecy was so unique 
and so unlike anything else, the prophetic inspiration was 
so directly from God, and the prophet was so much His 
immediate servant, that we might think there was little 
room for confusing the true phenomenon with anything 
else ; or for any one imagining himself to be a prophet, if 
he really was not. Standing as we do now two or three 
thousand years distant from the scenes of Israel's life, our 
eye sees only two or three great figures ; all else seems 
almost obliterated and reduced by distance to a level. We 
observe the imposing figure of the prophet, with his extra- 
ordinary powers of prediction, and in some cases of miracle 
working, and we see almost nothing else. The elements of 
the life that surrounds him are almost indistinguishable. 
The complications in which he was involved, the popular 
interests that he ministered to, the struggles of opposing 
parties, the darkness and shadows that fell upon the leaders 
of the people, and perplexed their counsels and paralysed 
their actions, in a word, the life that surrounded the prophet 
and beat upon him with its waves, we hardly realise. He 
is to us merely a grand, solitary figure, with supernatural 
endowments. And we cannot help imagining him the same 
imposing figure to his contemporaries. And we wonder that 
they should ever have disobeyed his word, or that anything 
like a counterfeit to him should ever have appeared. 

But the wonder would be lessened, if we would but look 
into the moral complications of our own time, or those of 
any period of history known to us. We have among us 
the same elements that were among the Israelites. We 


have the word of God, with its record of miracles, with 
multitudes believing it and expounding it with an earnest- 
ness little less than prophetic. And it is, no doubt, to 
many a wonder that more effect is not produced by all 
this. But when we look into the condition of men's 
minds in our time, we see how things are. Among a 
large part of those who do not deny that Scripture is the 
word of God, or that it contains the record of miraculous 
occurrences, there is no living belief beyond this condition 
of merely not denying; and among a number of others we 
observe an actual disbelief. This disbelief feeds on many 
things. It is ministered to by all those general conceptions 
of the human race, and of the universe, which an extended 
science is so fruitful in producing. And thus the miraculous 
disappears, and the word of God, which is a miracle, dis- 
appears with it. 

If we consider the period of history in which Christ 
lived, the same condition of things is apparent. Though 
He was the Son of God, men did not find Him to be so. 
Though He worked profound miracles of grace and power, 
men found means of getting past these. We are surprised 
at the blindness of men then, but our own is as great or 
greater. No doubt the obstacles in our way are not quite 
the same ; but it is the same quality in us that makes 
obstacles of them. We think that if we saw an actual 
miracle we should believe. What we desiderate is evidence 
of them, and for want of it we enable ourselves to dispose 
of them. The men of Christ's time did not disbelieve in 
miracles ; but they were nevertheless enabled to resist those 
which He performed, by the simple belief prevalent then, 
that miracles were not uncommon occurrences. Our scant 
faith in the supernatural invalidates the miracles to us ; 
their almost too abundant faith in the supernatural in- 
validated to them the miracles of any particular person. 
Thus it appears that it is not God's way to give a 


revelation which will carry conviction apart from moral 
qualities in the mind. There will always be, in every 
condition of the world, some ground on which the evidence 
may be evaded. This is a truism, because the conviction 
to be produced is not mere intellectual credence, which 
only goes the length of not denying. The spirit of revela- 
tion, in whomsoever manifested, whether in the prophet or 
in the Saviour or in the word, is not a mere spirit of 
knowledge, but of life. Eevelation in the prophet was 
not merely a disclosing of truth ; it was in every fragment 
of it a broadening of life in the Church. In all conditions 
of the world the truth of God attaches itself to moral 
conditions in men ; and by moral conditions it may be 
repelled : " He that is of the truth heareth My words," 
and many times no further account of it can be given. 

But in order to understand the Old Testament Scripture 
anywhere, we must endeavour to realise that there was in 
Israel a life as various as our own. There were mysteries 
then as now. Men were perplexed by opposing probabilities 
as they are still. Conduct was not a straight, luminous 
path then any more than it is now ; it was often covered 
with darkness, and various roads presented themselves, 
between which men had to choose. There was among them 
a divine voice ; yet it did not speak directly, but through 
the voice of men, and there was room to doubt whether 
the particular voice of man was really God's ; or, when 
competing voices w r ere heard, as now, each claiming to be 
God's, which was His ? They had no criterion by which 
to decide. From the nature of the case an external 
criterion was impossible. They had to bring the standard 
of judgment with them in their own minds. They had to 
exercise these minds, particularly their moral judgment ; 
and the more the perplexities of life and of public affairs 
increased, the more room there was for uncertainty. 

Hence in the time of Micah, when serious trouble first 


began to invade Juclah, we find men beginning to criticise 
the prophetic word, and to question its harmony with the 
character of Jehovah. They said to the prophets : " Prophesy 
not : they shall not prophesy of these things, indignities 
never cease." To which Jehovah by the prophet replies : 
" Do I change, house of Jacob ? is the Spirit of the Lord 
impatient ? are these my doings ? are not my words favourable 
to him that walketh uprightly ? " l And even in regard 
to a greater than Micah, Isaiah himself, men were not afraid 
to express their impatience and resentment of what they 
considered his captious, criticising manner : " Precept upon 
precept, precept upon precept ; line upon line, line upon line ; 
here something, and there something," 2 men were weary of 
this prophetic pedagogue. And by the time we reach the 
days of Jeremiah, his fellow-countrymen are not ashamed to 
tell him to his face that they don't believe him : " Then 
spake Azariah the sou of Hoshaiah, and Johanan the son of 
Kareah, and all the proud men to Jeremiah, saying, Thou 
speakest falsely : the Lord our God hath not sent thee to 
say, Ye shall not go into Egypt to sojourn there : but 
Baruch the son of Neriah setteth thee on against us." 3 
And the wretched captives who carried the prophet with 
them into Egypt had courage enough left to say to him : 
"As for the word that thou hast spoken to us in the 
name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto thee." 4 And 
so far did this spirit go, that a demand was made for a 
general order to silence Jeremiah and similar prophets, 
men came and said to the high priest : " The Lord hath 
made thee priest . . . that ye should be officers in the house 
of the Lord, in regard to every man that is mad, and 
maketh himself a prophet, that thou shouldest put him in 
the stocks, and in shackles." 5 The people who spoke 
thus believed in prophecy, as they believed in the priests 

1 Mic. 2. - Isa. 2S W . 3 Jer. 

* Jer. 44 16 . 6 Jer. 29 2(i . 


as the true expounders of the law. Jehovah did speak to 
them through His prophets, but Jeremiah was a false prophet. 
The scene described in Jer. 28 between Hauaniah and him is 
most instructive as to the state of men's minds. Jeremiah 
asserted that the Captivity would last for two generations ; 
Hananiah predicted that in two years the exiles would return 
with Jehoiachin at their head. The wish being father to the 
thought, the people naturally gave their voices for Hanauiah ; 
and for the time Jeremiah was put to silence. 

Now, there were several things which, it has been sup- 
posed, might have served the people as external criteria of 
the true prophecy. Such things were the prophetic ecstasy, 
miracle, and the verification of the prophetic word by fulfil- 
ment in events. But while, in simple cases, these things 
might be regarded as accompaniments, or even tokens of true 
prophecy, yet when used as a test to discriminate between 
one prophet and another, they were liable to fail. Excita- 
tion, in greater or less degree, and even complete ecstasy, 
was a thing natural to an Oriental people : it was perhaps 
more natural when great truths were fresh, and breaking for 
the first time on men's minds, or when a national crisis 
occurred which was new and not hitherto experienced in 
history. In the early prophetic period, excitation was prob- 
ably common; the prophetic language used later appears to 
be formed upon it, e.g., such words as ' vision,' ' see,' ' hear,' 
and the like. 

Excitation was, however, no essential element in true pro- 
phecy. It is not mentioned in connection either with Moses 
or Samuel. On one occasion Elisha asked for a minstrel, and 
while the minstrel played the ' hand of the Lord ' came 
upon him. Isaiah refers to it twice. 1 It was, perhaps, more 
common all throughout prophecy than we usually suppose ; 
arid though the words ' see,' ' hear,' ' hand of the Lord ' 
may have at a later time been used in a less strict sense 

1 Isa. 6 and S 11 . 


of the prophetic intuition, unaccompanied by any extreme 
excitation, their occurrence always deserves investigation. 
But, obviously, so common a phenomenon as ecstasy could 
be no test of true prophecy. It was no evidence that 
a prophet was true ; neither was it any evidence that he 
was false. On the contrary, it can readily be seen how it 
may have given rise to confusion of judgment on the part 
of onlookers, or, what was worse, may have led the man him- 
self, who was affected by it, to regard himself as truly 
inspired. For, in early times, no doubt the inspiration was 
an inference from the ecstasy. The man was seen to be in 
the hands of a power which was considered external to him. 
It was a god or God in whose grasp he was. 

Miracle might certainly be in some circumstances an 
evidence and test of true prophecy. It was so on Mount 
Carmel, when, at Elijah's word, fire from heaven consumed 
the sacrifice and licked up the water in the trench. Yet 
the subsequent history leaves us in great doubt as to the per- 
manence of the moral influence even of this great wonder. 
In the Old Testament 'miracle' merely means wonder: it 
is something extraordinary, nothing more. Any additional 
element of meaning arising from the idea of ' law ' could 
not belong to it, because the idea of law did not exist. The 
question, therefore, is not what impression the Old Testament 
miracles make on us now, but how the people of Israel 
regarded them then. And there were several ways of 
thinking about miracles, which tended to rob them of their 
force as tests or evidences. 

In the first place, the working of wonders was not 
regarded as an exclusive prerogative of Jehovah, or of His 
true servants. Moses performed wonders in Egypt, turning 
water into blood, and filling the land with frogs ; but it is 
said that "the magicians also did so with their enchant- 
ments." 1 We nowadays may have our own opinion of the 


powers and operations of the magicians ; but the faith of the 
ancient world was more simple, and its credulity greater. 
In this particular instance the Mosaic miracles did, no doubt, 
outbid those of the magicians ; but such conflicts were rare, 
or rather the instance is unique. 

Again, in Deut. 13 lff - it is said: "If there arise among 
you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a 
sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass, 
whereof he spake unto thee, saying [at the same time that 
he said], Let us go after other gods . . . thou shalt not 
hearken unto the words of that prophet ... for Jehovah 
your God proveth you . . ." Here a ' false ' prophet per- 
forms a wonder. It is Jehovah that empowers him. But 
the miracle, far from authenticating the prophet, has quite 
another purpose, namely, to prove the people whether they 
love Jehovah their God with all their heart. The meaning 
of a miracle, therefore, might be ambiguous ; and this of 
necessity invalidated its use as a test of true prophecy. 
The passage, however, while withdrawing attention from 
external signs, such as miracles, concentrates it upon the 
true test, which was, of course, not anything external, 
but ' the sure word of prophecy,' the first article of the 
people's faith, that Jehovah alone was God of Israel. And 
to all this has to be added the fact that, from Amos 
downwards, miracles play hardly any part in the history of 
prophecy ; while it was just in the last days of the kingdom 
of Judah that false prophecy became most rampant. 

The third test, the verification of the prophet's word in 
fulfilment, is one proposed by Scripture itself. 1 But, im- 
portant as this criterion was, it was one which was service- 
able less to individuals than to the people, since its life was 
continuous, and its identity and consciousness, even after a 
long period, were the same. As a guide to the conduct of 
individuals, at the moment when the prediction was uttered, 

1 Deut. 18 21 . 


such a criterion could be of little avail. Occasionally there 
were predictions given that had reference to the near future, 
as when Micah ben Jimlah predicted the defeat of Ahab at 
Eamoth-Gilead, or when Jeremiah foretold the death of 
Hananiah within the year. But usually the prophecies 
referred to the destinies of the State, and were thrown into 
a somewhat indefinite future. This peculiarity perplexed 
men's minds, and led them to despair of, or at least to 
disparage, prophecy. They said, " The days are prolonged, 
and every vision faileth " ; or, if they did not go so far, 
they said of the prophet, " The vision that he seeth is for 
many days to come, and he prophesieth of the times that are 
far off." l The criterion of fulfilment was one for the use of 
the people, with its prolonged historical life : " Whether they 
will hear or whether they will forbear, they shall know 
that a prophet hath been among them." 

The criterion of fulfilment was one available chiefly on 
the grand scale, when applied to the general scope of the 
prophetic predictions. This scope was to the effect that the 
destruction of the State was imminent because of the sins of 
the people. It is now a commonplace that prophecy did not, 
even in the main, consist of prediction. The commonplace is 
true, if predictions of mere contingent occurrences of a private 
nature be meant. Prophecy was occupied with the destinies 
of the kingdom of God. But the essence of prophecy is pre- 
dictionprediction not only of the far distant consummation 
and glory of the kingdom, but also of the nearer steps necessary 
to this, the downfall of the State, and the instruments who 
shall accomplish it. The rationale of predictive prophecy is 
given in Isa. 41. Jehovah is the First and the Last. He 
initiates the movement of mankind's advance, leads it on, and 
rounds it off. From the beginning He foresees the end. 
But it is His relation to Israel that causes Him to declare it, 
because this end is a condition to which His people must 
1 Ezek. 12 22 - - 7 . "- Ezek. 2 5 . 


attain. It can be attained, however, only by their voluntary 
and conscious striving after it. Therefore they must be 
enlightened both in regard to it, and the way to it. The 
fundamental principle of Hebrew philosophy is the same as 
that of prophecy. God is fulfilling Himself in all things, 
in mankind no less than in other things. But man's 
peculiarity is that he can understand the divine process, can 
throw himself voluntarily into the current, and thus make 
himself and the world and God to be one. 

From all these things it is plain that, in order to under- 
stand the forms and ramifications of this false prophecy, a 
very minute and extended acquaintance with the history 
is necessary. The designation ' false prophecy ' is not 
used in the Old Testament, and is very general. False 
prophecy was a thing of many varieties. It arose from 
many sources, and took on many colours. It was as various 
as the sections and parties, whether religious or political, 
in the State. It might be the mouthpiece of an undi- 
luted idolatry. Or it might represent the mistaken 
patriotism of the time. Or it might express the mere 
sensuality and resolution to live at ease, which is apt to 
seize men in the face of extreme peril : " Let us eat and 
drink ; for to-morrow we die." Those were false prophets, 
through whom Jehovah did not speak. Of course, this is 
true ; and perhaps sometimes we can say no more. The false 
prophet's mind was not illuminated by the true light. In 
every case of false prophecy this holds good. Still, to say 
that those were false prophets through whom Jehovah did 
not speak, though true, is not all that can, or should, be 

The converse proposition is equally true, and brings us 
more into the heart of the subject : Jehovah did not speak 
through these prophets, because they were false. The thing 
that lies behind the fact that the Lord did not speak by them 
is really the interesting thing. For the prophetic gift was 


not a gift isolated, or merely magical and marvellous : it was 
a gift connected with the principles of the covenant religion. 
The spirit of prophecy was the spirit of the covenant, of the 
religion of Israel, expressing it, unfolding it, applying it 
to the people's necessities, and opening up its great issues 
and final perfection. 

What made the false prophets false, therefore, must have 
been some fundamental error in their relation to the prin- 
ciples of the religion of Israel. But there was abundant 
room for errors of this kind, because the religion of Israel 
was, of course, not only a religion but a morality, and, in 
addition, it was a polity. Now, the policy of Israel was not 
a haphazard one, or grounded merely on expediency or 
opportunism ; it was based on definite principles. But these 
principles might easily be misapprehended, and false advice be 
given by men not in themselves, perhaps, vicious or notori- 
ously ungodly. 

Thus it will readily be perceived that there might be two 
classes of false prophets : (1) Those who were not properly 
prophets of Jehovah at all, but prophets of Baal or Milcom, or 
any other deity, not the God of Israel. It might seem that 
this would not be a numerous class. And perhaps those who 
were simply anti-Jehovistic were not numerous. But those 
were not few, perhaps, who were syncretistic, who combined 
in their pantheon Jehovah and other gods also. Jeremiah 
mentions prophets of Baal as existing in his day. And we 
are familiar with Ezekiel's chambers of imagery. But 
Zephaniah alludes to the more numerous class when he 
speaks of those who swear by Jehovah and also swear by 
Milcom. 1 The condition of things in that age was un- 
speakably perplexed. Calamity upon calamity had fallen 
upon the State. Jehovah seemed no longer to protect it. 
Men said, " My way is hid from the Lord, and my right is 
disregarded by my God." 2 They said, "Jehovah seeth us 
1 Zeph. I 5 . 2 Isa. 40 27 : cf. 49 14 . 


not ; Jehovah hath forsaken the land." l And they turned to 
other gods for succour. The captives in Egypt speak thus 
to Jeremiah: "We will not hearken to thy word . . . but 
we will burn incense to the queen of heaven, as we have 
done, we and our fathers, our kings, and our princes . . . for 
then had we plenty of bread, and we were well, and saw 
no evil." 2 So ill-instructed were men, and such elements 
of confusion existed in the State, and so severe were human 
sufferings, that in their misery men turned to one god 
after another, hopeful that some of them might help them. 
And every movement of this sort had its mouthpiece 
its prophet. 

Closely connected with this syncretism, which united other 
gods along with Jehovah, were the many forms that a low 
prophecy assumed as means of reaching truth. Wherever 
there was worship, there was something resembling prophecy. 
The nations around Israel, just like the Greeks, had it in 
various forms. It was everywhere the expression of the mind 
of the Deity. Now, these Canaanitish methods penetrated into 
Israel. The tribes absorbed the inhabitants, but the practices 
of the latter lived on, and helped to corrupt the true prophetic 
gift. It was the same thing that happened, when Christianity 
was accepted by the nations of Europe. It purified them to 
some extent, but they corrupted it. Their idolatries were 
many times merely baptized. Their temples became churches, 
but in many ways the old worship went on in them. Their 
exquisite statues of Apollo and Ceres became martyrs and 
virgins. The truth was not extinguished. A central fire was 
still burning ; but the extremities became cold and material. 
So the true prophetic gift did not expire in Israel ; but in 
many instances it became allied with heathen practices, such as 
necromancy, and witchcraft, and the various kinds of sooth- 
saying by means of arrows, and rods, and ventriloquism. 
All those forms are proscribed in Scripture as corruptions 
1 Ezek. 8 12 . a Jer. 44 17 . 


of the true prophecy ; and Isaiah condemns those that chirp 
and mutter, and seek for the living to the dead. Neverthe- 
less, even his condemnation did not destroy them out of 
the land. This, then, was one side of the false prophecy. 
It was objectively false. This side is of less interest. Its 
chief interest lies in the illustration it affords of how the 
highest gifts may degenerate, and how the fire of truth may 
cool down and radiate out its warmth into surrounding 
elements, and finally die out; and that this may happen even 
with a supernatural gift, for supernatural gifts and super- 
natural truth, when brought down into the region of human 
life, must in some degree be subjected to the laws that 
operate there. 

(2) But there was another class of false prophets who 
were prophets of Jehovah. There was not unanimity on 
many occasions among the Jehovah prophets. Men who in 
objective religious opinions agreed, at least superficially, and 
who practised no forbidden methods of reaching the divine 
will, but regarded it in common as a thing revealed in the 
heart, were found not infrequently to give forth as Jehovah's 
word conflicting judgments. They advised contrary steps 
in a political emergency, or they predicted diverse issues in 
regard to some enterprise on which they were consulted. 
Thus, in connection with the expedition against Eamoth Gilead, 
the king of Israel gathered together four hundred prophets, 
who said to him, " Go up ; for the Lord shall deliver it into 
the hand of the king." But Micah ben Jimlah said, " I saw 
all Israel scattered upon the hills as sheep that have not a 
shepherd." l Now, the four hundred were false prophets, and 
Micah was a true prophet. The Lord spoke by him, and 
not by them. That is true. But is it all that can be said ? 
Why did the Lord not speak by these prophets ? His 
speaking or not speaking by them cannot have been a mere 
occurrence, isolated, and in no connection with history, or 

1 1 Kings 22. 


with the general conduct of these prophets, or their relation 
to true theocratic principles. A very significant hint is given 
in reference to these prophets and their relations to the 
king, and his character and theocratic conduct, in the words 
he utters regarding Micah : " I hate him ; for he doth not 
prophesy good concerning me, but evil." These prophets 
prophesied good to godless and idolatrous princes, such as 
Ahab was ; the other, like the prophets who followed him, 
could prophesy nothing but evil to such men, they could 
only express the law of Jehovah's righteous government, that 
disaster follows sin. In the opposing judgments of Micah 
and the four hundred, we see a wholly different view in regard 
to the nature of Jehovah and His kingdom, and in regard to 
the character and rule of Ahab. 

Ewald, in his very instructive remarks on Prophecy, pre- 
fixed to his Prophets of the Old Testament, signalises three 
lines along which true prophecy might move subjectively 
towards corruption. These were, first, the prophetic ecstasy, 
which ought properly to be under the control of the prophet, 
but might not unnaturally become excessive and pass into 
mere frenzy, thus corrupting and confusing the clearness of 
the prophetic revelation, and issuing in fanaticism. We are 
familiar with excesses of this sort at periods of profound 
religious awakening, as at the Eeformation and during the 
Parliamentary war in England. God's highest gifts need the 
conserving influence and regulation of the broader and funda- 
mental gift which He has given to all men, even Pieason ; 
they are liable to be drawn into the service of the anarchical 
elements in our nature, which they readily serve to their 
greater inflammation. 

Second, another source of corruption lay just in the very 
nature of the prophetic inspiration as a subjective illumina- 
tion. This being a condition of mind, the true prophet 
might be conscious of it, and infallibly sure ; but the condi- 
tion could not be passed objectively from him to others, that 


they might examine it. Hence, while a true prophet was 
conscious of being true, a false prophet might not be con- 
scious of being false. The evidence, like that in faith or 
justification, was positive, but not negative. No doubt, there 
generally exists a certain negative evidence, but that arises 
from the positive evidence expressing itself outwardly in 
actions, or inwardly in emotions, to the test of which a man 
may then bring himself. Jeremiah is never weary of thus 
objectivising himself, in the face of the false prophets. He 
is convinced they have not his experiences ; the word of 
the Lord does not come to them as he felt it come to him, 
like a fire in his bones, which he could not endure. Jeremiah 
has more self-consciousness than any other prophet. This 
arises partly from the fact that, though a timid man, he was 
called to take a first place in his country's service at a very 
unquiet time ; and partly from the opposition he endured, 
especially from the false prophets, over-against whom he had 
to set himself and his experiences with the view of making 
their falsehood conspicuous : and this makes him the most 
interesting prophetic figure in the Old Testament. 

The third cause of corruption lay in the tendency 
of prophecy to become a profession, and thus to draw into 
its ranks many who merely sought a living. To investigate 
this source of corruption fully, we should have to trace the 
history of the so-called schools of the prophets. We know 
little about these associations. It has been supposed that 
they were schools or colleges, where, under the superintend- 
ence of some older prophet, young men studied the law and 
history of Israel, and were initiated into the principles of the 
theocracy, and thus fitted to be themselves instructors of the 
people, and prophets if called to be so. It is probable that 
these associations had not any such formal character. There 
were young men among them, but there is no reason to 
suppose they were universally or generally young. It seems 
certain, however, that the associations had a practical object 


Men met together to encourage one another, to vivify to one 
another the truths of religion, and to awaken in one another 
enthusiasm for them. With this object they practised music 
also. But the object set before the mind seems to have been 
at first personal rather than public. The so-called schools 
were brotherhoods rather than seminaries. Yet out of these 
brotherhoods men went forth filled with a sacred enthusiasm 
for the service of Jehovah, and became prophets to the 
people. The history mentions these associations only when 
the course of events naturally requires them to be mentioned. 
This is the case in the reign of Ahab. We know him as a 
persecutor of the 'sons of the prophets.' This appellation 
makes it probable that they lived under the superintendence 
or direction of one, or more than one, highly honoured pro- 
phet ; and this probability is confirmed by the narratives of 
their relation to Elijah, and especially to Elisha. 

It is unfortunate that we know so little of these associa- 
tions. But there are two things of interest connected with 
them. They were probably the expression of a rising religious 
enthusiasm, which brought the members of the brotherhood 
together, and which they fostered among one other; and 
this religious life it was, no doubt, their object to awaken 
among the people. But though this much seems plain from 
the name 'prophets/ common to them with our canonical 
prophets, and from the connection some of these maintained 
with them, yet it is remarkable that none of our canonical 
prophets appears to have sprung out of these brotherhoods. 

Now, these prophets existed in great numbers. They 
were a class. Ahab gathered together four hundred of them. 
Obadiah hid a hundred in caves from the rage of Jezebel. 
It was impossible but that degeneracy should creep into so 
numerous a body. They were dependent for their living 
on gifts, and not unnaturally they were desirous to please 
the givers. They were consulted on all important occasions, 
and they were tempted, like Ahab's four hundred, to give 


an answer agreeable to the inquirer. In this manner, how- 
ever, prophecy became a profession, almost a business. And 
we must not assume that in the case of every prophet there 
was any such crisis and startling call to the office as is 
reported of Isaiah and Jeremiah. All true prophets felt 
called, but there might be nothing external or apparent in 
the circumstances of their call. This third source of corrup- 
tion was perhaps not productive of great degeneracy. Still 
prophesying became a fashion. Men assumed the hairy 
mantle who had no real call. They affected the prophetic 
manner and speech, saying, " Thus saith the Lord," and 
" This is the burden of the Lord " ; and some did this with 
conscious falsehood, and merely for a livelihood. Some ten- 
dency to this manifested itself early. Amaziah the priest at 
Bethel says to Amos : " Seer, go, flee into the land of Judah, 
and there prophesy, and there eat bread." Amos repudiates 
the charge of prophesying for a living : " I am neither a 
prophet, nor a Ben-Nabhi (a candidate for the office of 
prophet). I am a herdsman. And the Lord said unto me, 
Go, prophesy to My people Israel." l 

Those prophets who were objectively false, who were 
prophets of false gods, or used false methods, to reach 
the voice of God, such as practices of soothsaying, are of 
less interest ; and so also are those who were consciously 
false, and used their office merely for hire or personal 
aggrandisement. The real interest of false prophecy gathers 
around the prophets who were self-deceived. What made 
self-deception possible was the fact that the prophetic illumi- 
nation was an internal one. What gave such opportunities 
for self-deception was the perplexed condition of affairs, when 
counsels were so divided, and the most diverse steps recom- 
mended. Now we do not find that the answers or counsels of 
these false prophets were, as a rule, mere isolated falsehoods. 
There is a spirit of false prophecy equally with a spirit of 

1 Amos 7 12 - ln . 


true prophecy. The spirit of true prophecy is the spirit of 
the theocracy, breathes its principles, expresses its morality, 
and opens up its necessary and certain issues. The spirit of 
false prophecy is the untheocratic spirit, the spirit that has 
not taken in its principles, and does not reflect its morality, 
and cannot project before it the true issue of the kingdom 
of God. In every case almost where we observe Jeremiah 
opposing the false prophets, the latter appear to be persons 
pursuing aims alien to those of the theocracy. 

There were several distinct lines on which Jeremiah 
opposed the false prophets. One was the political line, 
another the moral, and a third the personal. The true 
prophets had two or three political principles which they 
always insist upon, such as to avoid entangling alliances, 
to cultivate peace and not aspire to be a warlike nation, 
and in danger to rely upon Jehovah. The ideal condition 
of the kingdom of God when universal was peace, and that 
which was destined to be the universal condition ou^ht to 


be the condition of the theocracy at all times. Hence we 
read : " Asshur shall not save us ; we will no more ride upon 
horses " ; l and again : " Some trust in chariots, and some in 
horses : but we will remember the name of Jehovah our God." 2 
These principles are all just fragments of the one great prin- 
ciple, that the theocratic State is not a kingdom of this world. 
This is the true theocratic idea, and it finds expression in 
true prophecy. The opposite idea, namely, that Israel 
should take her place among the nations, be a warlike State, 
ride on horses, and build fenced cities, and when threatened 
seek alliances for her defence, is an untheocratic idea, and 
finds abundant expression in the false prophecy. 

One can readily perceive, however, how easily the true 

theocratic principles might be described as unpatriotic ; and 

in point of fact Jeremiah was in danger of his life from this 

cause. "And the princes said unto the king, Let this man, 

1 Hos. 14 3 . - Ps. 20 7 . 


we pray thee, be put to death : forasmuch as he weakeneth 
the hands of the men of war that remain in this city, and 
the hands of all the people . . . for this man seeketh not the 
welfare of this people, but the hurt." l The false prophecy 
in political things was based upon fundamentally false con- 
ceptions of the nature of the theocracy. The true prophets 
felt that the essence of the kingdom of God lay in the re- 
lation of the people to Jehovah, not in the external form. 
Jehovah would care for the external safety. The false 
prophets looked only to the external form, and sought to 
uphold it by purely external means. 

Again, the most frequent collisions between Jeremiah 
and the false prophets occurred on the line of morals. The 
false prophets had not a stringent morality. Some of them 
were personally immoral. But that is not what is meant. 
Their conception of morality, of what the theocratic State 
should be, and of what judgments must fall upon it from God 
if it do not realise this ideal, was far from elevated or strict. 
Hence they did not regard the condition of society as at all 
desperate. There was nothing in it that appeared to them 
to demand God's judgment. Accordingly, they preached peace 
when there could not be peace : " They healed the hurt of the 
people slightly." Their notions of morality were superficial. 
They could not think that the Lord would overthrow His 
own house and banish His own people. They pointed to the 
buildings on Mount Zion, saying, " The temple of the Lord, 
the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord is this." 2 

It was this frightful insensibilty to moral conditions that 
roused Jeremiah almost to the pitch of frenzy : " Concerning 
the prophets mine heart within me is broken ; all my bones 
shake ; I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom 
wine hath overcome. . . . For both prophet and priest are 
profane ; yea, in My house have I found their wickedness." 3 
To Jeremiah the wickedness of the land made the Exile 

i Jer. 38 4 . a Jer. 7 4 . 3 Jer. 23 9 . 


inevitable ; and those who did not perceive it, but misled 
the people, filled him with indignation. In answer to their 
cry, " The temple of the Lord is this," he told them that the 
temple at Jerusalem would share the fate of the temple at 
Shiloh ; and to those who relied on Jehovah's protection for 
His house, he said that they made His temple a cave of 
robbers, where they thought they were safe after perpetrating 
their murderous deeds. 

This low conception of theocratic morality was at the 
bottom of much of the false prophecy. The false prophets 
were superficial men in this sense, naturally many of them 
were worse ; they practised the vices which they were so ready 
to overlook : " They have wrought folly in Israel, and com- 
mitted adultery with their neighbours' wives, and have spoken 
words in My name falsely." l But, in general, without going 
this length, they had no deep sense of evil and its conse- 
quences. Hence they said, " Evil shall not come upon us ; 
neither shall we see sword nor famine." 2 In opposition to 
this spirit such a prophet as Micah comes forward, saying, 
" Truly, I am full of power by the Spirit of the Lord to 
declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin"; 3 
and Jeremiah goes so far that he almost considers it the mark 
of a true prophet that he preach calamity and judgment 
from the God of Israel. For his assurance and announce- 
ment that Jerusalem should fall before the Chaldeans was 
not founded on his belief that so small a power as Judah 
could not resist the Babylonian empire. He had no such 
idea as that. The Babylonian empire was in Jehovah's hand, 
as all things else were. Jeremiah's assurance was the out- 
come of his profound conviction of the people's sinfulness, 
for which Jehovah must bring the State to an end. The 
optimism of the false prophets was based on their conception 
of Jehovah's power ; the pessimism of the true prophets, on 
their conception of His ethical being. 

1 Jer. 29 23 . " Jer. 5 13 . 8 Mic. 3 8 . 



The third line on which Jeremiah met the false prophets 
was the personal line. They had not the evidences in their 
person of a true prophet. They wanted his earnestness and 
convictions. Hence this prophet perpetually anatomises him- 
self for the purpose of confounding these prophets, and he 
goes the length of saying that they know that they have 
not the spirit of true prophecy within them. In this con- 
sciousness of wanting the real source of inspiration in them- 
selves, they clutched at prophecies by others, which they re- 
tailed to the people and used as their own. " Therefore, behold, 
I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that steal My words 
every one from his neighbour. Behold, I am against the pro- 
phets, saith the Lord, that use their tongues, and say, He saith. 
Behold, I am against them that prophesy lying dreams." : 

Just as the true prophecy of Israel was not a thing 
dependent on the arbitrary will of God merely, and of which 
no account could be given, but was a thing in connection 
with the covenant religion and the theocracy, the spirit 
of prophecy, being God's Spirit in the prophet, working on 
this and illuminating it ; so the false prophecy of Israel is not 
a thing of which no account can be given, and without roots. 
It is the expression of the untheocratic spirit in Israel in its 
various forms. It has its roots deep down in the popular 
thinking and life. 

The ethical conception of Jehovah held by the canonical 
prophets created a cleavage between Him and the people. It 
was no more Jehovah with Israel, but Jehovah versus Israel. 
This explains what is very curious in the prophets, their 
gradual abandonment of the idea of the kingdom of God as a 
State, and their movement towards that conception of it which 
is called a Church. What was essential in the kingdom of God 
was not its form, but its nature, the godliness of the people. 
Perish the State ! Long live the community of believers ! 

This was the patriotism of the prophets : that of the 

1 Jer. 23 S0 . 


false prophets was much more intelligible. And this ethical 
nature of true prophecy is really its characteristic, and that 
by which it is to be estimated, and not by the literal fulfil- 
ment of its predictive details. The predictions were only 
embodiments of the ethical and religious principles, pro- 
jections often so ideal that they could not be realised. But 
the great general scope of the prophetic outlook regarding 
the destinies of the kingdom of God, whether nearer or more 
remote, was verified. And, as has been said, it was in the 
region of this general scope that the true prophets came into 
conflict with that other class of prophets whom the verdict of 
history has pronounced false. 

Modern writers on prophecy have exhibited a good deal 
of sympathy with the false prophets, and one scholar has 
expressed his regret that all their productions have perished, 
and that we have only the judgment of their adversaries 
upon them, and cannot hear them in their own defence. It 
would certainly be interesting to us if we had some fragments 
of their literary labours preserved to us. But perhaps we 
may acquiesce in the judgment of their countrymen who 
allowed them to perish, or, at any rate, in the judgment of 
providence and time which has destroyed them, and con- 
clude that they were not worth preserving. 

It is admitted that, judged from the point of view of 
a pure spiritual Jehovah worship and a lofty morality such 
as men now recognise, and such as the canonical prophets 
habitually preached, these prophets were false. Their posi- 
tion and aims and requirements from men were below 
this ideal standard. This is admitted by their defenders, 
but it is said that this was more their misfortime than 
their fault. It was not due to any declension on their 
part, but to an advance on the part of the prophets called 
true, which outran the abilities both of the people in general 
and of the body of the prophets. The true prophets, as we 
call them, were always in a minority, because the nation 


could not keep pace with them. And the prophets called 
false were so because, like the people, they moved more 
slowly, adhered to a former standing-point, and were thus 
left behind by the more advanced prophets and denounced 
by them. But the denunciation was inconsiderate ; the true 
prophets forgot that the divergence or opposition between 
them and those they denounced was due to their own onward 
march, which had left others behind, who in a former age 
might have been regarded as occupying a very good position. 
Now, this view, of course, raises a very interesting 
question, namely, whether the true prophets successively 
changed their position, advancing always towards a more 
purely spiritual conception of Jehovah and His worship, and 
towards a more inward and severe morality ? Such an 
advance may have taken place. But our decision on this 
question will not affect our judgment on the question whether 
the one class were true prophets of the religion of Jehovah 
and the other false, nor our conclusion that their false- 
hood proceeded from, or expressed itself in, views regarding 
Jehovah and the moral life of His people which were in- 
adequate, and did not correspond to those that the successive 
epochs at which they appeared required from men who had 
attained to true conceptions of the covenant religion. We may, 
however, feel that we can take a more lenient view of the 
individual men among these prophets, allow more weight to 
the perplexities in which they must have been involved, and 
to the circumstances that determined their minds ; and this, 
by giving a broader scope to our view of the times and of 
human thought, will not be a loss, but a gain to ourselves. 
And we shall wonder more and more at that divine light 
cast into the minds of the prophets, whose writings have 
become the heritage of mankind, which enabled them on 
each occasion to interpret Jehovah's nature rightly to the 
people, and to give them counsel always in the line of the 
true principles of the kingdom of God. 



THE term Messiah (W'o) means ' anointed.' The name was 
applied both to the theocratic king and to the priest. The 
phrase ' the Lord's anointed ' is frequently applied by David to 
Saul, the first king of Israel. As applied to a certain future 
king, for whom, at a particular stage in the history of Israel, 
prophets and people began to look, the title is perhaps taken 
from the 2nd Psalm : " The kings of the earth set them- 
selves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord 
and against His anointed" (irP^D). Whether the allusion 
have reference to this special king in the mind of the author 
of the Psalm or not, certainly about the time of our Lord this 
passage was generally expounded of the expected king ; and 
the name ' Son of God,' also applied to Him, is probably taken 
from the same Psalm. Hence Peter in answer to the query, 
" Whom say ye that I am ? " replied, " Thou art the Messiah, 
the Son of the living God." And Jesus accepted the 
designation, adding that not flesh and blood, but His Father 
had revealed this truth to His disciple. The name is 
supposed by many to be already given to this expected 
king in Dan. 9 25 : " From the going forth of the command- 
ment to restore and build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the 
Prince shall be seven weeks,"- -though for ' the Messiah ' 
in this passage the Eevised Version has substituted ' the 
anointed one,' which may refer to any high priest or ruler. 

It seems evident that the name Messiah had not become 
a proper name, nor specifically the name of a future expected 



king, when the second half of Isaiah was written ; for in 
Isa. 45 1 the term is applied to Cyrus : " Thus saith the Lord 
to His anointed " (His Messiah), " to Cyrus, whose right hand 
I have holden, to subdue nations before him." But it was 
quite currently used of the expected king or deliverer in 
the age of Christ ; for even the woman of Samaria employs 
it, saying to Jesus at the well, " I know that Messias 
cometh ; when He is come, He will tell us all things " ; and 
Jesus again claimed to be this expected Messiah : " I that 
speak unto thee am He." l 

Now, this Messianic conception, used in this strict sense, 
was part of the eschatological views of the prophets ; that is, 
belonged to what might be called the eschatology of the 
kingdom of God, with which the prophets occupy themselves, 
as distinguished from the eschatology of the individual. 
This king belongs to the latter days, the time of the end, 
the final perfection of the kingdom of God upon the earth. 
And I need not remark that the conception of heaven, so 
familiar to us, was unknown to the prophets, I mean, heaven 
as the abode or final dwelling-place of the perfected people 
of God. Heaven was the abode of God ; the abode of man 
was earth. The perfection of the people of God was attained 
not by their being translated to the sphere of God's abode 
but by His coming down and dwelling among them. In all 
the Old Testament prophets, the Church of God made perfect 
still dwells upon the earth, though it is a transfigured earth. 

The picture drawn of this final condition may appear to 
our minds a singular union of the natural and the miraculous, 
of the ordinary conditions of human life with a presence 
of God which might seem to render them impossible. And 
probably the pictures drawn could not in truth be realised. 
They are the result of two great conceptions combined, a 
very realistic idea of man and human life, which regarded 
man altogether as he is seen, a being complex, but a unity 

1 John 3 25f -. 


of body and mind, and who therefore required a physical 
sphere to afford scope and play to his powers ; and, secondly, 
a very vivid idea of God as the source of all life and power 
in man, and of His presence as the source of all blessedness. 
Thus the sphere of the people of God made perfect was still 
the earth, but with the full manifestation of God among 
them ; and this manifestation many times introduces elements 
into the picture which seem incompatible with the circum- 
stances of a life of man upon the earth, as for example in 
Isa. 4 5 : " The Lord will create over the whole habitation of 

Mount Zion, and over her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by 
day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night : for over all 
the glory shall He spread a canopy." 

This perfection of the people of God was attained when 
Jehovah was present in His fulness for salvation among them. 
This presence of their God is usually considered a manifes- 
tation of Himself in His own person. Thus in Isa. 40 
we read : " Hark ! one crieth, Prepare ye in the wilderness 
the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a high 
way of our God. Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, 
lift up thy voice with strength ; lift it up, be not afraid ; say 
unto the cities of Judah, Behold, your God ! He shall feed 
His flock like a shepherd. The glory of the Lord shall be 
revealed, and all flesh shall see it together." And in 
Ps. 102: " Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion : for 
it is time to pity her ; yea, the set time is come. For thy 
servants take pleasure in her stones, and have pity upon her 
dust. So the nations shall fear the name of the Lord. For 
the Lord hath built up Zion, He hath appeared in His 
glory." Both these passages, and there are many similar 
ones, speak of Jehovah's manifestation in His own person. 
But there is another set of passages in which the Lord's 
revelation of Himself is represented as taking place not in 
His own person, but in that of a great theocratic king, in 
whom He would be manifested in all His power and glory 


for the salvation and peace of His people. Such a passage 
is that in Isa. 9 : " His name shall be called Wonderful, 
Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 
Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall 
be no end, upon the throne of David, to establish it, and to 
uphold it with judgment and with righteousness from hence- 
forth even for ever." 

In the Old Testament these two lines of divine mani- 
festation do not seem yet to be reconciled. But in the New 
Testament they coalesce. Jehovah's manifestation of Him- 
self for salvation was understood to be His manifestation 
in the Messiah. Hence the passage in Isa. 40 is referred in 
the Gospels to Christ, and the passage in Ps. 102 is inter- 
preted in the Epistle to the Hebrews also of the Christian 
Messiah. It is probable that it was the history of Jesus 
which led the New Testament writers to this amalgamation. 
They saw in Jesus the manifestation of God, a manifes- 
tation often promised in the Scriptures, though, in some 
instances at least, the exegesis of the synagogue had not 
referred such passages to the hoped-for Messiah. 

The fact that the Messianic hope was expected to be 
verified in the last times, gave it certain peculiarities. One 
of these was that there was a great amount of idealism in 
all the Messianic prophecies. .This idealism was often, of 
course, poetical. Exquisite pictures were drawn of the 
fertility of the earth, corn waved on the tops of the 
mountains, and shook like Lebanon ; and also of the felicity 
of men. But it is chiefly a moral idealism that characterises 
the representations. It is freedom from evil, no doubt, partly 
in a physical sense, but chiefly in a moral sense. This is 
seen in all the Messianic prophecies, from the first downwards. 
And with the idealism there is necessarily combined a certain 
amount of generality. How much meaning our first parents 
may have found in the early promise given to them, " The 
seed of the woman shall bruise the head of the serpent," may 


be difficult to say. The precise sense which we are now able 
to express by the words can hardly have been suggested to 
them. But they could be assured that the family of mankind 
would yet achieve a victory over the author of their calamitous 
transgression. And as the meaning and consequences of what 
had befallen them became clearer, so would their conception 
of what was meant by bruising the serpent's head, and how 
alone that could be done. 

In like manner, when it was said to Abraham, " In thee 
and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed," l 
there is in the promise a great generality both as to time and 
manner. It could not soon be fulfilled ; and there might be 
room for conjecture even as to the manner. Yet the patriarch, 
knowing wherein his own blessedness lay, in his knowledge of 
God and fellowship with Him, would probably surmise that 
through his seed this true knowledge of God would reach all 
peoples. The same general sense is obtained even if we 
translate : 2 In thee and in thy seed shall all the families of 
the earth bless or felicitate themselves, that is, use his name, 
his felicity and destiny in wishing good to themselves, the 
same good, namely, as had accrued to him ; and this good 
was, or at all events came from, his relation to his God the 
true God. 

If we consider the early time at which this hope was 
cherished, it becomes very astonishing. The passages in any 
case are earlier than the prophetic age. The prophecy of 
Jacob, " The sceptre shall not depart from Judah until 
Shiloh come," 2 is obscure, and the true rendering uncertain. 
The Septuagint renders : " Until that which is his shall 
come " ; 3 and the words so pointed may be read : " Till he 
shall come whose it is." 4 At all events, there is the same 
projection into the distant future and the same vagueness 

1 Gen. 12 3 18 18 . 2 Gen. 49 10 . 

3 Sept. TO, airoKelfj.ei>a avrip ; Aq. and Symm. y 

4 Cf. Ezek. 21 32 : os^n iS IS ; N xa-iy. 


as in the other prophecies. The name Shiloh may perhaps 
mean ' the peaceful one,' or if otherwise pointed it may 
mean ' peace.' If the rendering ' until he come to Shiloh ' 
be adopted, the reference must be to a historical occurrence. 
But these poetical prophecies uniformly refer to a distant 
future, and no event in the history of Judah can be found 
to verify a reference to the historical locality, Shiloh. 

With regard, however, to these early prophecies, it may 
be made a question how much importance is to be attached 
to them. The history in which we find them, or at least 
much of it, was probably not written down till the period of 
the monarchy ; and even supposing the poetical passages to be 
older, it is not impossible that they may have undergone some 
alteration at the hands of the writer who inserted them in his 
history, and thus that some parts of them may reflect the 
modes of thought current during the kingly and prophetic 
ages. Writers on Old Testament theology are feeling them- 
selves constrained to say that the religious conceptions which 
appear in histories and narratives can be certainly held to 
be true expressions of belief only for the time at which the 
histories were written down, and not for the remote periods 
which they may describe. The writers necessarily threw 
back their own modes of thought upon the earlier times of 
which they wrote. 

There may be undue scepticism in this position, but 
there is no doubt also some ground for it. For the Old 
Testament writers were not so much concerned about his- 
torical accuracy in delineating the past, or in maintaining 
the strictly historical colours of preceding times in their 
distinction from one another, as in edifying their own con- 
temporaries. The writers were in the main prophetic men, 
whose aims in writing history were similar to their aims 
in their prophetic discourses. And even supposing the 
writer to write down the traditions exactly as they had 
coine to him, which probably was rarely the case, these 


traditions had descended through many ages, and would 
certainly in the course of transmission be subjected to 
changes, and would assume forms or gather elements 
belonging to the different periods through which they 
passed. This is the fate of all unwritten traditions and 
histories, although poetical compositions are less liable to 
change than others. 

At the same time, there is this general question which 
requires consideration. Certainly, in the periods of Israel's 
history known to us, there is revealed a singular tendency 
to look forward to the future and project ideals into it, 
and to dwell upon the significance of Israel in the religious 
development of mankind. This is just the peculiarity of 
the prophets. The question is, How early did this peculiarity 
appear ? May not such thoughts have occupied the minds 
of the patriarchs the fathers of Israel ? The Old Testament 
reposes on the idea that God revealed His purposes to men. 
We do not doubt this in the case of the prophets. Are 
we justified in doubting it of a much earlier period ? 

The Messianic age belonging to the future, and being 
therefore largely ideal, that is, being constructed out of 
great conceptions of the kingdom of God, such as God's 
presence, righteousness, peace, earthly felicity regarded as 
perfectly realised, any great and significant factor of the 
life or faith of the people of God may be expected to find 
a place in it. The Messianic is usually held to circle around 
the three great figures, prophet, priest, and king. But the 
basis is broader than this. The Messianic age being the 
time of the Church's perfection, any element that enters 
into the life of men, as an essential factor of it, may be 
idealised and made prominent. In point of fact, there is 
little idealising of the prophet. He was already so fully 
the organ of Jehovah, inspired by His Spirit, that he was 
not susceptible of further idealisation. In the final period 
of perfection he rather finds no place, for the prayer of 


Moses is then answered : " Would that all the Lord's people 
were prophets ! " As represented by Joel, the Lord pours 
out His spirit upon all flesh ; and all prophesy, and see 
visions, and dream dreams, even the servants and the hand- 
maidens. And the same idea appears in other prophets 
also : " They shall teach no more every man his neighbour, 
and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord : for 
they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the 
greatest of them " ; l " And all thy children shall be taught 
of the Lord ; and great shall be the peace of thy children." 2 

The passage, Deut. 18 14ff> , applied in a Messianic sense 
in the New Testament is rather an indirect than a strictly 
Messianic prophecy : " I will raise them up a prophet from 
among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put My words 
in his mouth ; and he shall speak unto them all that I 
command him." The connection shows that the reference 
is not to any particular prophet, but rather to true prophecy 
in general, to the prophetic office. The preceding verses 
prohibit the people from consulting charmers, or those with 
familiar spirits, or wizards, or necromancers, for all their 
practices are an abomination unto the Lord. The nations, 
he continues, addressing Israel, which thou shalt dispossess 
hearkened unto observers of times and unto diviners ; but 
as for thee, the Lord thy God hath not suffered thee so to 
do. The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet 
or, as we might render it, prophets from the midst of 
thee, of thy brethren ; unto him ye shall hearken. The 
contrast is between the false divination of the heathen and 
the true inspired prophecy which Jehovah shall bestow 
upon Israel. 

But, like all the great promises of God to His people, 
it was soon felt that this one had never received adequate 
fulfilment. Its ideal and perfection had never been reached. 
And men threw forward their eyes to a time yet to come. 

1 Jer. 31 34 . 2 Isa. 54 13 , 


when a perfect prophet would arise. Particularly when, 
with the destruction of the State, the prophetic body 
ultimately ceased to exist, the people felt the need of 
teaching, and longed for a perfect teacher. A Psalmist 
thus complains : " We see not our signs : there is no 
more any prophet: neither is there any among us that 
knoweth how long." l The perplexities and darkness of 
the times made the need of a prophet felt ; and from 
another point of view also the need of a prophet arose, 
to turn the people from their iniquity. Hence Malachi 
in his last words predicts the reappearance of Elijah : 
" Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the 
corning of the great and dreadful day of the Lord : and 
he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, 
and the hearts of the children to the fathers, lest I come 
and smite the earth with a curse." 2 These were the two 
lines of expectation of a prophet, and we observe them 
both represented in the time of our Lord. To the messen- 
gers sent from the Pharisees to John, " he denied not, but 
confessed : I am not the Christ. And they asked him : 
What then ? art thou Elias ? And he saith : I am not. 
Art thou the prophet ? And he answered, No." It was 
a universal expectation of the Jewish schools in the days 
of our Lord that Elias would precede the Messiah in His 
manifestation. Indeed, they laid much more stress on Elias 
than on the Messiah Himself, he was to restore all things. 

By far the most splendid prophetic ideal of the Old 
Testament, however, is the Servant of the Lord in the 
second half of Isaiah. The Spirit of the Lord is poured 
out on him; and His word put in his mouth. 3 The Spirit 
abides on him, the Lord wakeneth his ear, morning by 
morning. 4 His mouth is a sharp sword, and he himself 
a polished arrow. He has not merely the word of the 
Lord in his mouth ; he might almost be said to be the 

1 Ps. 74 9 . 2 Mai. 4 5 . 3 Isa. 42 1 49 1 . 4 Isa. 50 4 . 


word of Jehovah incarnate. Hence he is the light of the 
Gentiles. 1 The power he wields is no other than the reve- 
lation of Jehovah, which he brings forth to the nations ; 
and they walk in his light, and wait for, that is, defer to, 
rely on, his teaching. The Servant of the Lord is not a 
prophet with a message for any particular time or circum- 
stances ; he does not give particular teaching or predict 
any particular event. He is the embodiment of the whole 
revelation of the true God. He is therefore scarcely a 
person in the view of the prophetic author, he is rather 
the true Israel personified ; or at all events, if a person, he 
is Israel concentrated, Israel the bearer of Jehovah's reve- 
lation, destined to bring forth from within itself true light 
to the nations. Salvation is of the Jews. 

It is the Davidic king that is the great Messianic figure 
in the Prophets, and even in the Messianic Psalms, though 
in some of the Psalms other figures also appear. What is 
strictly called Messianic prophecy all relates to the Davidic 
king. It is not strange, perhaps, that none of the dynasties 
of the Northern kingdom contributes anything to the 
Messianic conception. 2 No Northern monarch is idealised 
by the prophets, nor is the Northern monarchy ever re- 
garded as extending into the time of final blessedness. 
Ephraim and Judah remain, Ephraim shall not vex Judah, 
nor Judah envy Ephraim ; but they appoint unto themselves 
one head, the Davidic king. 

Besides these great figures, there is another that contri- 
butes much to the features which are united in the Christian 
Messiah, namely, he who is called by the general name of 
the Saint or Holy One, that is, the idealised individual 
righteous man. This figure certainly contributes not a little 

1 Isa. 42 and 49. 

2 The only exception that has been suggested is the 45th Psalm, the king 
whose nuptials are celebrated in this passage being held by some to be a 
Northern prince. Others, however, refer the passage either to Solomon or 
some Judtean king. 


to the perfect ideal realised in our Lord. It is particularly 
the personal character of this figure his faith in God, his 
struggles with adversity and death, his hopes of immortality, 
and the like - - that come prominently to the light. He 
belongs, not to the eschatology of the kingdom, but to that 
of the individual. Hence it is in the subjective and personal 
writings that he appears, as in the Psalms and perhaps Job. 
It is this person who says in Ps. 16 : "I have set the Lord 
ever before me : because He is at my right hand, I shall not 
be moved. For Thou wilt not give over my soul to Sheol ; 
neither wilt Thou suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption." 
It is he also who speaks in Ps. 40 : " Sacrifice and offering 
Thou didst not require. Then said I, Lo, I am come ! 
I delight to do Thy will, my God: yea, Thy law is 
within my heart. I have preached righteousness in the 
great congregation." But it is uncertain whether it be the 
same speaker who, in Ps. 22 22 , when delivered from death, 
says : " I will declare Thy name unto my brethren : in 
the midst of the congregation will I praise Thee. For He 
hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted ; 
neither hath He hid His face from him," and who links on 
the conversion of the world to his own deliverance : " All 
the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the 
Lord : and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before 
Thee." The Psalm has very many affinities with Isa. 40 ff., 
and the person from whose redemption such wide effects 
follow may be the Servant of the Lord rather than the 
individual saint. 

It is probable that many of those passages which refer 
to the individual, and speak of immortality, are pretty late. 
It cannot be doubted that the Exile cut the history of the 
people in two, the literature before the Exile- at least that 
relating to the end having for its subject chiefly the nation 
as the people of God ; while, after the nation was dissolved 
by the Captivity, and no more a visible unity, the hopes and 


aspirations of the individual find fuller expression. Neither 
can it be doubted that the fate of the nation sank deep into 
the popular mind, and seemed to men to be the seal set to 
the prophetic teaching regarding the people's sin. Hence- 
forth the sense of sin in the people's mind was deeper, 
and it is probable that then that side of the sacrificial act, 
according to which it was a propitiation for sin, assumed a 
larger prominence, and that other meaning which it had of a 
gift for God's acceptance sank proportionally out of view. 
It was really the calamitous history of the nation that im- 
pressed them with a sense of their sinfulness more than the 
arbitrary ceremonial enactments, with the disabilities they 
entailed of the ritual law. From all that we can learn from 
the Scriptures themselves, these ceremonial regulations were 
little attended to in the pre-Exile period ; but they certainly 
acquired full force after the Eestoration. 

Finally, in regard to the priest, who in some parts of the 
New Testament is so imposing a figure, it is surprising that 
in the Old Testament he appears but little in connection with 
the final perfection of the people of the Lord, and has not 
much part in bringing in the final salvation. In the earlier 
prophecies, the sin of the people is forgiven directly by 
Jehovah, after His severe judgments have brought home the 
sense of their sin to the people's mind ; the forgiveness is not 
mediated by sacrificial or priestly intervention. The Old 
Testament lays down the great general conception that it is 
Jehovah to whom salvation belongs. If there are instruments 
or means towards it, He raises them up, or appoints them. 
He is present in them, if they are persons, such as the 
Messianic King ; and from Him they derive their validity, if 
they are means. The sacrificial system is left in the Old 
Testament entirely unexplained, so far as it has any bearing 
on the future. It was enough that it should teach for the 
time some general conceptions such as the people could not 
but learn from it. 


It is in Deutero-Isaiah that the great redemptive con- 
ceptions, usually connected with priest and sacrifice, receive 
their fullest expression, not, however, in connection with 
the priest, but with the Servant of the Lord. The sinless- 
ness of the priest is realised in him. " He did no wrong, 
neither was there guile in his mouth." 1 But, in particu- 
lar, the step is taken a step of immeasurable magnitude 
of translating the sacrificial idea out of the region of 
animal life, and throwing it into the sphere of human and 
personal life, and of conscious, voluntary self-sacrifice : " If his 
soul should make an offering for sin, he should see a seed. 
The Lord made to fall on him the iniquities of us all." The 
suffering Servant of the Lord bears the sins of the people, 
and he bears them voluntarily. It is doubtful, however, if 
he be regarded as a priest offering himself. But this is of 
little consequence. It is the things that are of importance, 
not the category or conception under which we bring them. 
The munus triplex, as we call it, the office of prophet, 
priest, and king, is a mere matter of classification, under 
which we bring things essential in the Eedeenier of men 
If we find the things in the Old Testament, we do not mind 
missing the classification. 

The priestly idea, however, is not altogether unrepresented 
in the circle of Messianic ideas. In the remarkable passage, 
Zech. 3, it is said : " Hear now, Joshua the high priest, 
for thou and thy fellows are types : for, behold, I will 
bring forth My servant the Branch, and I will remove the 
iniquity of that land in one day." Joshua, the high priest 
of the Eestoration, is a type, in his functions of high priest, 
of the Branch (the Messiah), through whom Jehovah will re- 
move the iniquity of the land. And in another passage (6 12 ) 
it is said : " Behold the man whose name is The Branch . . . 
even he shall build the temple of the Lord ; and he shall bear 
the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne ; and he 

1 Isa. 53 9 . 


shall be a priest upon his throne : and the counsel of peace 
shall be between them both." The clause "he shall be a 
priest upon his throne " is rendered by many, " there shall be 
a priest upon his throne : and the counsel of peace shall be 
between them both." If this be the true rendering, the idea 
is that the final perfection requires both a king and a priest ; 
and of these Zerubbabel and Joshua were types. But the 
idea is not yet expressed that the two functions shall be 
united in one person. The amity between the two is 
such that they both sit on one throne. This is not a very 
natural conception, and it has been usual to interpret the 
expression ' peace between them both ' as rather between 
the two functions. This idea, however, is certainly expressed 
in another passage, Ps. 110. The two oracles in it are: (1) 
" Sit on My right hand, till I make thine enemies thy foot- 
stool. The Lord shall send thy strong sceptre out of Zion : 
rule thou in the midst of thine enemies." And: (2) "The 
Lord hath sworn, Thou are a priest for ever after the order 
of Melchizedek." There are some who think the Psalm later 
than this passage in Zechariah, partly because the two func- 
tions are united in one personage, and partly because they 
think this idea seeing, as a rule, prophecy reflects and 
idealises existing conditions would not have been expressed 
till the period in the history of the people when royalty and 
priesthood were actually united in one individual in the 
persons of the Maccabean or Asmonean princes. The Psalm, 
however, is usually assigned to the reign of David. And 
there was one occasion in particular, when he united the 
priestly and royal prerogatives, namely, on the bringing 
up of the ark to Jerusalem, when he sacrificed and minis- 
tered before the Lord clad in a linen ephod. The Psalm 
is either very early belonging to a time when sacrificing 
was not yet strictly confined in practice to the priesthood, 
but could, on occasions, be performed by other high 
officers, especially by the king or very late, when the 


two great offices were actually historically united in the 
same person. 

There are also, as has been pointed out already, profound 
Messianic elements in many of the Psalms, such as the 16th, 
22nd, arid others, all of which furnished conceptions which 
entered into the perfect idea of the Kedeemer of men. For 
this is just the peculiarity of the Old Testament, that it 
struck out lofty moral and redemptive ideals in connection 
with various personages on occasions the most diverse. These 
lofty ideals were ultimately combined together to make out 
the Being of Him who was ideal on all sides. But this 
Messianic of the Old Testament was, so to speak, unconscious. 
The writers had not the future king in their mind : they 
were speaking of other characters, or they were uttering pre- 
sentiments, or what seemed to them religious necessities, or 
projecting forward brilliant spiritual hopes and anticipations. 
There was a spirit in them infinitely broader than the mere 
consciousness or hope of a future person, a spirit as broad 
as the kingdom of God in all its needs, in all its endowments, 
and in all the possible height of its attainments. 

The history of the people's mind, from the Restoration 
onward, is mainly the history of their reflection on these 
lofty ideals. They tried these ideals by the condition of the 
present, and found that they and the present were incom- 
patible, and they projected them into the future, and thus 
the ideals became prophetic. Further, they had received the 
hope of a great deliverer, and he became a centre around 
whom the ideals whether of glory or holiness, or even of 
suffering could be gathered, and they attached them to him ; 
and thus things which had originally, in the long course of 
revelation, been said of many, or at least several, person- 
ages, all came to be grouped around one special expected 
great deliverer. 

The only creative book after the rebuilding of the temple 
is the Book of Daniel. Most modern scholars place the book 


in the Maccabean age, from 170 to 160 B.C., at least in 
its present form, though there may be older elements in it. 
Just as the horizon of Deutero-Isaiah is bounded by the 
Exile, so the horizon of Daniel is bounded by the freedom 
of the people to be achieved against Antiochus, who had 
profaned the temple and abolished the daily sacrifice. This 
horizon is the same in all the visions. The Messianic age 
breaks or dawns immediately on the back of the downfall 
of this tyrant. The four monarchies are no doubt the 
Babylonian, the Medo-Persian, that of Alexander and his 
four generals who succeeded him, and the Syro-Greek king- 
dom of the Seleucids. This is the fourth kingdom, out of 
which comes the little horn, who in all cases is Antiochus 
the persecutor. The Messianic prophecy in Daniel has several 
forms. The most general is that in chap. 2, where the stone, 
cut out without hands, which grew to a great mountain, and 
smote the great image of the world-monarchy to pieces, is a 
symbol of the kingdom of God, which shall overcome all other 
kingdoms, and itself endure for ever. The most remarkable 
form which the Messianic hope takes is in chap. 7 13 - u , where 
one like a son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and 
was brought to the Ancient of days, and receives the king- 
dom, that all peoples should serve him. It is not easy to 
say whether this son of man be a symbol for Israel, the 
people of the saints of the Most High, or be the Messiah. 
It is certain that this phrase was very early interpreted of 
the Messiah, it is so already in the Book of Enoch. And 
unquestionably some new Messianic ideas were suggested by 
the passage, e.g. the pre-existence of the Messiah before His 

It may suffice to sum up this brief history of Messianic 
prophecy thus : 1. All redemptive power and grace is exerted 
by Jehovah, " salvation belongeth unto the Lord." l This is 
the point of view from which to estimate the Messianic : the 


Messiah represents Jehovah in some of His saving operations, 
if he is king, Jehovah the true King is present in him ; if 
priest, he operates with means appointed by Jehovah ; if 
servant of the Lord, the servant is truly a divine thing, the 
creation of Jehovah by His choice and endowment with the 
Spirit. He is Jehovah's word and truth incarnate. 

2. The Messianic is thus as broad as Jehovah's saving 
operations, as the persons and means that He employs or 
inspires, and varies in different periods ; though on the one 
hand the Messianic king, and on the other the Servant of 
the Lord, supply the chief conceptions. 

3. Finally, after prophetic revelation had, in the main, 
ceased, a process of synthesis of the scattered elements com- 
menced, and the various conceptions were grouped round 
about a single person. 



THE question is often asked in regard to passages in the Old 
Testament, such as, for example, the 2nd Psalm, the 7th and 
42nd chapters of Isaiah, To whom is the reference here ? 
And then, in all likelihood, a distinction is drawn between a 
primary and a secondary reference, between an immediate 
and a deeper application ; and it is said that with the 
immediate reference to David or other Old Testament 
personage there must be admitted a further and principal 
reference to Christ. 

Now, when we hear the question put, To whom is the 
reference in this passage ? there immediately occurs to our 
minds another question, Eeference by whom ? If a reference 
implies some one to whom reference is made, it equally 
implies some person or mind that makes the reference. The 
question, To whom is the reference made ? when stated fully, 
must be either, To whom is reference made here by the 
Spirit of Eevelation ? or, To whom is reference made here by 
the Israelitish author of the passage ? But these questions, 
though both legitimate enough, are perfectly distinct, and 
may admit of distinct answers. 

The questions are both legitimate. For it cannot be 
denied that there was a Spirit of Eevelation active in 
Old Testament times in unfolding truth, or that the Hebrew 
mind must, in order to produce the Old Testament Scrip- 
tures, have had relations with God of another kind than 
the Gentile nations had. But this Spirit of Eevelation must 



have had more knowledge than the human writer, and 
wider views ; and have comprehended not only the whole 
scope of any particular truth, but, what was a much pro- 
founder thing, the whole scope of the general scheme of 
which any particular truth was but a fragment. An eye 
which sees the whole field must estimate any object upon it 
differently from one which sees that particular object or its 
immediate surroundings only. 

No possible understanding of revelation can be come to, 
unless some such assumptions as the following be made : 
First, that revelation, from its earliest beginnings in the Old 
Testament to its latest statements in the New, is one 
coherent system of thought ; second, that this system 
gradually grew, and that in the long history of the Hebrew 
people we can trace it in good part from its germs to its full 
efflorescence ; and, third, that the system did not advance, in 
a mechanical way, by the Spirit of Eevelation injecting into 
the mind of some writers now an opinion, and then a fact, out 
of all connection with the writer's experience or his country's 
life ; but that the truth progressed in an organic way, and 
arose through the forms and occasions of a personal and 
national life, which both religiously and morally was of the 
profoundest character. 

But if these axioms be true, we may say quite fairly that 
the meaning or reference in the mind of the Spirit of 
Eevelation was different from that of the Hebrew writer. 
To the one the whole was in view, the end was seen in the 
beginning, and the line, longer or shorter, of intermediate 
development, through which the beginning should rise into 
the perfect end, was visible in all its extent ; while the view 
of the other was necessarily limited, and though he always 
spoke or wrote intelligently, and with an earnestness never 
surpassed by any teacher or moralist in other lands, yet 
his conception of the truth which he was teaching must have 
been coloured by the relations amidst which he stood, and by 


the nature of his own mind ; and his comprehension of the 
relation of any truth to the whole must have been less or 
greater according to circumstances, many of which it might 
be difficult to estimate. 

The distinction here drawn will be no less, perhaps to 
some even more, apparent, if what we have called the Spirit 
of Eevelation be not supposed to be a conscious mind at all, 
but be regarded as a mere personification, to which the name 
revelation-spirit might be better applied, and which would be 
identical with the idea of the system in its perfect state 
which we call revelation. This idea is Christianity. And it 
is evident that it is from the point of view of this idea that 
the New Testament writers generally speak; and that they 
throw back the perfection of this idea upon the imperfect 
and only germinating condition of the system in the Old 
Testament. Of course they regard the Spirit of Eevelation 
as a person ; but they regard Him as having in view the 
perfect form of a truth in the New Testament, even when 
giving imperfect indications of it in the Old ; and therefore 
they find in the most rudimentary statement in the Old 
Testament an expression of the fully developed truth of 
the new dispensation. 

The question, therefore, what was the meaning of the 
Spirit of Eevelation in any particular place, becomes very 
much what is the form of the truth, taught in that place, in 
its perfect or highest form ? And to answer this question, 
we must have recourse to the ultimate form of the system of 
revelation in the New Testament. The whole was always 
had in view in giving any part. The part was but an 
instalment, carrying with it a promise of the whole, and an 
intention both ultimately to give, and meantime to suggest, 
the whole. And on account of the progressive and germin- 
ant character of the revelation there lay in every fragment or 
germ of a truth a prophecy, for there was in it a determina- 
tion towards that form which was its perfection or fulfilment. 


In using the Old Testament now, especially for purposes 
of edification, all this ought to be considered as elements of 
its meaning. For to omit them would be to fall short of 
giving a true account of the Old Testament, as much as one 
would fall short of giving a true account of a child who 
furnished a minute inventory of his stature and organs, and 
relations to the things about him, but omitted to state that 
there was a principle of growth in him, and that he manifested 
a tendency to become a man. 

It may be asked, seeing the revelation was progressive, 
and given mediately through the forms and occasions of a 
personal and national life, must we not consider the 
fragments and germs of truth in their various shapes, and 
with the varied colours which different ages lent them, to 
be what the Spirit of Eevelation designed to be at such 
particular times revealed, and therefore his meaning ? Un- 
doubtedly ; for the disposition of events out of which the 
truth arose, and which gave it much of its colour, was never 
accidental, and the mind of the author was always under 
the influence of the Spirit. But, seeing the events and 
circumstances referred to were those that surrounded the 
author, and helped to determine his mind, and seeing that his 
mind and tongue were the mould on which at last the truth 
was formed, the meaning of the Spirit of Eevelation thus con- 
sidered does not differ from the meaning of the Hebrew author. 

It is this meaning of the Hebrew author which, in any 
scientific study of the Old Testament as a progressive unfold- 
ing of truth, we are most interested in ; and it is in reference 
to this Hebrew author that we mean to put the question, 
To whom, in the passages of the Old Testament usually called 
Messianic, is reference made ? Whom has the Hebrew 
author in his mind in these various passages ? It may be 
supposed that the Hebrew author has not always the same 
subject in his mind, and that consequently there are various 
kinds of Messianic prophecies in Scripture. 


First, then, there are real Messianic prophecies or state- 
ments in the Old Testament, that is, statements made by the 
Hebrew writers with direct and conscious reference to the 
Messiah or to something in His kingdom. The term Messiah, 
as has been already stated, means ' anointed.' As applied to 
a certain future king for whom at a particular stage in the 
history of Israel people and prophets began to look, it is 
taken from the 2nd Psalm : 

" The kings of the earth set themselves, 
And the rulers took counsel together, 
Against the Lord, and against His Anointed." 

This Psalm, in the mind of its author, may or may not have 
had immediate reference to this king ; but it is beyond con- 
troversy that the prophets did anticipate the advent of a 
king, who, though of the line of David, was to be possessed 
of extraordinary endowments. 

" It is a fact indisputable and undisputed, that for a long 
time before the birth at Bethlehem, the Jews were looking 
out for a prince who was to arise to them from David's 
house. They were ' waiting for the consolation of Israel.' 
. . . The expectation of a redeemer and prince had been 
growing in the hearts of the people ever since the Captivity, 
and may even be traced back through the preceding centuries 
as far as the accession of Eehoboam, the fatal era when the 
hopes of perpetual unity and dominion, which had been 
cherished during the brilliant reigns of David and Solomon, 
were so lamentably frustrated by the final disruption of the 
kingdom. From that time till the cessation of prophecy, a 
long succession of predictions announced the advent of a son 
of David, of the increase of whose government and peace 
there should be no end." l 

In confirmation of the opinion advanced in the above 
extract, the passage referred to at the end of it needs only to 

1 Biuiiie, The Psalms, p. 158. 


be read : " To us a child is born, to us a son is given : and his 
name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, 
The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." 1 That the 
expectation of a special king of the line of David, under 
whom the kingdom should attain its perfection, existed among 
the prophets, is ' undisputed.' The only point in dispute is 
the time and circumstances when the expectation arose. It 
is certainly not probable that the expectation of any special 
king existed anterior to the rise of the kingdom. For, by the 
law of progressive revelation, the external events of history, 
though they cannot be considered as the measure of prophetic 
truth (as if prophecy were merely the consciousness of 
history), may always be regarded as what gave occasion to its 
being spoken, and the varying Messianic element in the Old 
Testament is but the ideal and glorified reflection of the 
varying history and institutions of the people. The anticipa- 
tion of a perfect king could not arise before there were 
imperfect kings. 

But it is certain, on the other hand, that we find the 
anticipation in full blossom in the time of Isaiah and his 
contemporary Micah, and even, if possible, in a manner more 
pronounced in Zechariah : " Eejoice greatly, daughter of 
Zion ; behold thy king cometh unto thee." 

In the above extract the expectation is traced as high up 
as the time of Rehoboam and no further. This date is 
probably an inference from the fact that the disruption of 
the kingdom took place under that king. But there is no 
evidence in the Old Testament itself which would lead us 
higher up than Isaiah, except evidence which would carry us 
as high as David himself. 

Between the splendid circle of Messianic Psalms, includ- 
ing the 2nd and the 110th, supposed by some to belong to 
the era of David, and founded at least on Nathan's oracle to 
him in 2 Sam. 7, and the prophecies just referred to in the 

1 Lsa. O 8 . " Zech. Q . 


writers of the Assyrian age, there are no references to a 
personal Messiah. The great prophets of the north, Elijah 
and Elisha, have no such doctrine to declare. And, coming 
to Amos and Hosea, the one a prophet whose calling was 
exercised in the north, and the other a native of that 
kingdom, we do not find in their prophecies, though falling 
within the borders of the Assyrian age, any such specific 
predictions as occur in Isaiah. They both, indeed, predict 
the restoration of the house of David to universal authority 
over the tribes, the one more generally and the other dis- 
tinctly : " In that day I will raise up the tabernacle of 
David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; 
and I will raise up his ruins, and will build it as in the 
days of old." 1 "Afterwards shall the children of Israel 
return, and seek Jehovah their God, and David their 
king." 2 

But though Hosea distinctly predicts the reunion of all 
the tribes again under the house of David, it is doubtful 
whether we are entitled to extract from his language any 
particular views regarding the condition of the Davidic house 
at the future time referred to. The prophet is very strong 
in his reprobation of the schism of the north. By him 
departure from the house of David and returning to it are 
coupled with departing from Jehovah and returning to Him ; 
and the things are, in his view, almost identical. And when 
he speaks of returning to David their king, he has in his 
mind the vacillating conduct of the Northern tribes in the 
actual history of David, as well as their secession from his 
house in the person of his grandson ; and we cannot be sure 
that he means more by the language than that they shall 
reverse their act of rebellion and undo their past history. 
In the mouth of Jeremiah and Ezekiel the expression ' seek 
David their king' may have a meaning more particular, 
because ere their day the great predictions of Isaiah and 
1 Ainos 9 11 . 2 Hos. 3 6 . 


Micah had intervened, and they may employ the older phrase- 
ology to cover both the old and more general as well as the 
new and more precise truth. 

It is held by some that the expectation of a special king 
from David's house may be traced even in the Psalms of the 
era of David, perhaps in the 2nd, but certainly in the 110th. 
But the date of the origin of this anticipation, however 
interesting, is not the point to which we are directing our 
remarks in the present instance : it is to the fact of this 
anticipation really existing at some stage or other of the 
people's history. This fact is ' undisputed.' There are 
statements in the Old Testament in which the Hebrew author 
consciously refers to the Messiah. 

But now, while this is undisputed, it is quite possible 
that these prophets or Hebrew writers, though speaking 
consciously of the Messiah, may not always have described 
Him and His reign precisely as history has shown them to 
be. It is quite certain, if Christ was the promised Messiah 
He claimed to be, that they have not done this. Neither 
was it to be expected that they should. For there was in 
their own day such a king and kingdom of God already upon 
the earth ; it had a certain form, and existed in relations 
which varied considerably in different prophetic ages ; and it 
is no more than may be considered probable that the writer, 
even when thinking of the future king and kingdom, and 
knowing perhaps that the king to come would be unlike the 
king then ruling, and the kingdom different in form from 
that then existing, may not have been able to describe that 
king and kingdom altogether truly as they have appeared. 
He will describe the king rather as if he were to come in 
the relations in which the prophet himself then lived. Thus 
Micah, after predicting the advent of the king out of Beth- 
lehem Ephratah, adds, " And this man shall be peace, 
when the Assyrian shall come into our land. And they 
shall waste the land of Assyria with the sword : thus shall 


he deliver us from the Assyrian when he cometh into our 
land." ! 

The form of all prophecy, even the directly Messianic, 
varied according to the historical conditions of the people 
when it was uttered. That element of it received promi- 
nence which, at any particular time, was of chief significance 
in the life of the people. And the fact is certain that the 
form of the Messianic prophecies is of such a kind that the 
Jewish expositors of the time of our Lord were deceived by 
them into the belief that the Messiah was to be a temporal 
prince such as David was, and that the form of the kingdom 
was to be as it was under the first monarchy. It may be 
said that the comparison of other prophecies would have 
corrected their views. That may be true ; but it leaves this 
untouched, that the prophecies on this point were of such a 
kind as, taken by themselves, to suggest a temporal monarchy. 
And that they not unreasonably did so may be inferred from 
the fact that, even now, a great many interpreters agree 
with the Pharisees, and maintain that these prophecies regard- 
ing the Messiah and His kingdom have as yet received no 
fulfilment, but shall be verified in His territorial, visible, 
earthly reign, when His present rule, which is of another 
kind and for other purposes, shall be ended. 

Now, if on the one hand it be natural that the Old 
Testament prophets should describe the Messiah and the 
things of His kingdom in this way, it is surely equally 
natural on the other that the New Testament should dis- 
regard the deviations in form from the reality of history, 
and recognise the Messiah. It is natural that, when the 
prophets were looking forward very far, the atmosphere 
through which they looked should in some measure distort 
the object seen. No doubt this could have been obviated by 
revelation, but perhaps not without making revelation a thing 
entirely immediate. And it is natural, on the other hand, to 

1 Mic. 5 Dt -. 


accept at once this somewhat distorted object as the Messiah. 
When one sees himself or another in a convex mirror, it is 
not a true likeness that is presented. Some features may 
be exaggerated and some diminished, parts may be obliterated 
altogether, and a general disproportion introduced ; still one 
does not deny the reflection to be that of one's self. Neither 
will a fair criticism refuse to admit that an Old Testament 
writer may have had the Messiah in his mind, even in 
cases when the description does not quite square with the 
Messiah's history, as it has actually occurred. It certainly 
does afford some ground for the strong language that has 
been applied to modern criticism, when it refuses to admit 
that the writers may have been thinking of the Messiah when 
their description does not quite agree with His actual history ; 
as for example, when de Wette refuses to consider Ps. 2 
directly Messianic because it paints the Messiah as a warrior 
breaking the nations with a rod of iron. This objection of de 
Wctte's is invalid in two ways : the Psalm might be directly 
Messianic, even though it spoke of this king as if he were a 
king like David himself, who had to fight for his throne ; and 
the warlike terms in which he is spoken of form no obstacle 
to a Christian writer applying them to Christ. The author 
of the Apocalypse speaks of the man-child who is to rule all 
nations with a rod of iron. All that incongruities of descrip- 
tion prove, therefore, is that the writer, though referring in 
his own mind to the coming king, was not enabled in all 
respects to conceive Him as He came, but conceived Him as 
if He had come perhaps in relations like or liker those of his 
own time. 

Second, Besides these real or direct Messianic prophecies, 
there are certain other passages in the Old Testament where 
the writer does not seem to be consciously speaking of any- 
thing future, but of things and persons then existing; while 
the New Testament applies the passages to the Messiah, and 
affirms that they were spoken of Him, not merely that the} 7 


are applicable to Him, These are generally called typically 
Messianic prophecies. Perhaps a name more intelligible 
would be ideally Messianic, or even ideally typical, as there 
may be another kind of typical, which may be named ordinary 
or simple. 

If we were to form a general conception of salvation, we 
should define it to be the union of God and man. This is 
salvation, and the means to this is the way of salvation. 
Now, if man's condition be considered, something really 
divine must lay hold of him to deliver him. There will be, 
as in every man saved, so in this people of salvation, two 
elements, a human and a divine. The divine will be a 
series of energies exerted on the human ; and the latter will 
be a series of relations sustained to the divine. For example, 
men being ignorant of God's will, there must be some divine 
energy of revelation or prophecy ; men being far from God, 
there must be some energy of atonement or priesthood to 
bring them nigh. And, on the other hand, the consequence 
of this influence from above on man will be that he will enter 
into certain relations with God, he will become the just, or 
the servant, or the sufferer, and such like. There will be a 
whole circle of offices to be filled, and of roles to be played or 
characters sustained. These will be essential among the 
salvation people. 

And without question Israel, as chosen in Abraham and 
redeemed from Egypt, was the subject of all these divine 
influences, and sustained all these characters. Moses prayed : 
" Would that all the Lord's people were prophets ! " Jehovah 
said to the people, defining their relations to Himself and to 
the world : " Ye shall be to Me a kingdom of priests, and an 
holy nation." In Isa. 4066 Israel appears with all these 
determinations upon it. But the nation as a whole was 
unable for these high functions. It was too feeble to be 
king among the nations. It was too ignorant to be prophet 
to the peoples. It was too sinful to be priest of mankind. 


But that endowment of Israel which was prophetic, that 
determination of the nation towards prophecy, condensed 
itself and appeared in the prophetic order. And the same 
took place with respect to the priestly determination. And 
in like manner that requirement that it should be servant 
was fulfilled in one class in Israel, the true theocratic kernel. 
And that destiny that the righteous shall suffer, that through 
tribulation the entrance lies to glory, was exhibited in the 
case of the pious, particularly the pious king, such as 
David ; the true prophet, such as Jeremiah ; and the godly 
exiles in Babylon. 

Now, it is evident that all these offices were filled, and 
all these characters sustained, in the Hebrew State or king- 
dom of God. But it is also evident that they never were 
perfectly filled or fully sustained. The office was after all 
still nearly empty, and the character was merely sketched. 
But it not seldom happened that writers spoke of the offices 
and characters not as they were actually filled and sustained 
in any case, or ever throughout the history, but according 
to the idea of them, giving expression, say in the 72nd 
Psalm, to the hope that Solomon the theocratic king would 
be perfectly just and his dominion universal, the idea of the 
theocratic king and kingdom being justice and universality. 
Thus whole series of passages are found, where the persons 
and things which then were, are described, yet not as 
they actually were at any time, but according to the 
idea in them. And these ideal descriptions, which are, 
of course, true descriptions of the theocratic things, king, 
kingdom, just man, servant of God, sufferer in an evil 
world, if they were truly realised, are in the New Testament 
transferred to Him who did perfectly realise in Himself the 
King of the kingdom of God, the Just One, the Servant 
of the Lord, Sufferer, and such like. They are applicable 
to Him, and only to Him truly ; and they were meant to 
be applied to Him by that higher wisdom which was all 



the while raising these perfect thoughts of things only 
perfect in Him, and thus suggesting Him and preparing 
for Him in the hearts of men of those days, and preparing 
for us also in these clays, accurate delineations of Him. 

Now, it cannot be considered unnatural that prophets 
should so conceive things in Israel and so speak of them. 
If a prophet once received the idea of a kingdom of God, 
and a king for God being His representative, as He said, 
" I have set My king on My holy hill of Zion," and as 
it is said of Solomon that he sat down on God's throne 
in Jerusalem, it naturally follows that he should conceive 
God's king as being just, as He Himself is just; and 
of His kingdom as ruling over all, as God's kingdom 
does. Neither can it be considered unnatural if what is 
thus said should be applied to Christ, who filled the 
same office, and who alone filled it according to this ideal 
delineation, since this ideal description was actually given 
with the intention of suggesting Him, though the writer 
may not consciously have referred to Him. 

Some organic connection must subsist between Christ 
and the men holding such offices and exhibiting such 
characters, in order that what is said of them may be fairly 
transferred to Him. The offices must be the same, and 
also the characters and relations sustained. If what is 
said of Solomon the king ideally, i.e. not according to the 
way in which Solomon realised the idea of kinghood, but 
according to the idea of kinghood itself, is to be transferred 
to Christ the perfect King, of course they must be kings 
of the same kind. One cannot say that Solomon was king 
of a State, and Christ of a Church. They were both kings 
of the same kingdom of God, though it may have altered 
its form. 

Similarly, if the priest be described ideally and the 
description be transferred to Christ, Aaron and Christ must 
be both priests in the same temple ; and, in fact, it is not 


easy to conceive of priesthood in any other temple or 
sphere. And all this will hold of the prophet, of the 
righteous servant, of the extreme sufferer. Now, did not 
Christ fulfil perfectly all these offices of prophet, priest, 
and king, and these characters of son, servant, sufferer ? Or, 
if one dislikes such technical words as ' office of a prophet,' 
let the names go ; the things remain. Did He not know God 
and His will, and declare it to men in fulness ? and was 
He not sent to declare it ? or, if that term be thought too 
technical, did He not feel under strong pressure and obli- 
gation to declare it ? Was He not the perfect servant, 
able to say truly, " I have finished the work which Thou 
gavest Me to do " ? And therefore it is not mere accom- 
modation when the New Testament applies those ideal 
delineations of the Old Testament to Him. There was an 
identity of Christ with all these offices and characters, an 
organic connection between Him and all this. This organic 
connection was twofold, first, according to the flesh, so He 
was Israel, the seed of Abraham, the seed of David ; and, 
second, according to the Spirit, to the various ramifications 
and exhibitions of the divine endowment ; as it was said, 
" I have put My Spirit in Him." 

This ideal theocratic is the most common of all the 
prophecies of the Messianic in the Old Testament, especially 
of the poetical prophecies, and it is in many cases difficult 
to distinguish it from the real Messianic ; and it is not 
often of great importance to be able. It requires that the 
writer should conceive the idea of that thing or person, 
office or character, of which he is speaking, and speak 
according to this idea. Writers on typology and expositors 
sometimes describe this by saying " that the writer is 
lifted above himself, and speaks in terms which, although 
they may perhaps admit of being applied to himself, are 
more easily and naturally applicable to our Lord." 1 . Some- 

1 Binnic, The Psalms, p. 132. 


times with less accuracy it is said that " in the character in 
which he speaks, he so exactly prefigured Christ, that the 
whole is applicable to Christ as truly as to himself ; and 
in some parts he is moved by the Holy Spirit to utter- 
words which, though true of himself, were much more 
perfectly fulfilled in Christ." l Or that, " being a prophet, 
and therefore a type of Christ, he is led to use unconsciously 
words which in their highest and truest sense are applicable 
only to Christ " ; 2 the ' unconsciously ' here is doubtful. 
The prophet spoke consciously enough, though the Messiah 
was not in his mind. Sometimes, again, it is said " with 
the immediate reference to David and Solomon, there must 
be admitted a further and principal and conscious reference 
to Christ." 3 Sometimes it is said that the author wrote in 
the light of the end, and spoke of himself, or of the king 
and kingdom, in the light of Christianity. 

All these seem to me but ways of saying that the 
author spoke ideally, that he spoke of himself and his 
times, and the characters and offices about him, not as 
they ever were, but according to the truth they repre- 
sented. Sometimes it is said, conversely, that he spoke of 
the Messiah under the figure, or saw Him through the 
veil, of some type. All these modes of speaking can be 
resolved into one or other of these two : either the writers 
spoke consciously of the coming king and his kingdom, 
though they may have spoken of them in a form corre- 
sponding to the king and his relations in their own time ; 
or they spoke of the king of their own day, though they 
may have spoken of him according to the true conception 
of him, and thus in a way only realised in the Messiah. 

The former way of speaking, namely, of the Messiah con- 
sciously, but with the conception of Him and His relations 
more or less as the king and kingdom were in the prophet's 

1 Binnie, The Psalms, p. 182. 

2 Perownc, Psalms, p. 54. a Ibid. p. 173. 


own day, is sometimes described as ' borrowing imagery ' l 
from the Jewish dispensation, or from the reign of David 
and Solomon. Such an expression is apt to mislead one into 
the idea that the writers were not serious in their descrip- 
tions, but used language regarding the future which they 
knew to be false. Now, this may sometimes have been the 
case, but it is never to be assumed, unless it be certain. The 
prophets were as earnest in their conceptions and delinea- 
tions of the future, as men now are in their conceptions 
of heaven, though these may be in some degree untrue. 

There can be no doubt that the prophets, especially 
towards the end of the Hebrew commonwealth, do at 
times manifest the consciousness that the future kingdom 
of God, besides possessing the attributes of perfect righteous- 
ness and universality, would differ from the present in 
some respects even in form. But, in general, the future is 
but the perfection of the present ; and where the prophets 
' borrow imagery,' that is, where they express the future 
in the form of their own present, it is to be assumed that, 
apart from the poetry of their delineations, they mean 
literally what they say. How far what they say shall be 
fulfilled literally is another question, and one to be sedu- 
lously kept distinct; for the Hebrew prophets will never 
come to their rights, nor be recognised as the men of 
power and individuality that they were, unless we carefully 
distinguish between prophecy- -that is, what the prophets 
themselves in their own day and circumstances meant 
and fulfilment, that is, the shape in which the principles 
of the kingdom of God which they enunciated will 
eventually, amidst the enormous changes that have passed 
over the form of that kingdom and of the world, find their 
final realisation. 

Besides this great mass of prophecies, which, being 
ideally theocratic, are properly Messianic, there may be 

1 Binuie, The Paulms, p. 188. 



some others which might well be called ordinarily theocratic. 
These would be prophecies in which the typical person is 
spoken of just as he was, and not according to the idea of 
his office and person, and which are nevertheless applied 
in the New Testament to the Messiah and His kingdom. 
It is quite natural that some things or persons in the Old 
Testament economy should have realised the true idea in 
the kingdom of God which they expressed, and which 
therefore could be described in language which equally 
well fitted the things in the New Testament. But if the 
Old Testament delineation implied any imperfection in the 
idea, then it could not be transferred to the New Testament 

There is a very interesting class of passages from the 
Old Testament applied to Christ in the New, in which the 
application is to be explained on the ideal principle, but 
with certain necessary modifications. These are passages 
generally of considerable length ; and sometimes one ex- 
pression is transferred to Christ, while, alongside of it, 
there are others manifestly not at all applicable to Him. 
In the 40th Psalm, for instance, there occurs a passage, 
the Septuagint version of which is quoted in the Epistle 
to the Hebrews : " Wherefore when he cometh into the 
world, he saith : Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, 
but a body hast Thou prepared me : in burnt - offerings 
and sacrifices for sin Thou hast had no pleasure. Then 
said I, Lo, I come, (in the volume of the Book it is written 
of me,) to do Thy will, God." Now, these words are 
quoted as having found their highest realisation when 
spoken by our Lord ; yet they are followed by other words 
in the Psalm which, in their plain grammatical sense, 
cannot possibly be considered as spoken by Him. For 
they are a sad confession of sinfulness and misery : " Mine 
iniquities have taken hold on me, so that I cannot look up ; 
they are more than the hairs of mine head." Several un- 


satisfactory explanations of such passages have been given. 
Some have taken them as throughout directly Messianic : 
and the confession of sin they consider as made by the 
Messiah, who is our representative, in our room. But 
this is a precarious method of interpretation ; and, though 
it is as old as Augustine, 1 it is certainly false. No 
example occurs in the New Testament of our Lord 
making use of any such passages or adopting their thoughts 
as His own. 

Another theory has found the explanation of this 
peculiarity that some parts in a Psalm are applicable to 
Christ, and some only to the Psalmist in the mystical 
union of Christ and the believer, according to which some 
things only are applicable to the head, and some only to 
the members, and some to both. This conception of a 
mystical union is rather an idea of the New Testament than 
of the Old. In the Old Testament, the Messiah is the con- 
centration of the people ; in the New, the people are the 
extension of the Messiah. In the Old, He had not come ; 
the Church was pregnant with Him, ready to bring forth 
the man child ; in the New, He is the firstborn, the head 
of all. In the Old, types and king and kingdom precede 
Him and determine towards Him ; in the New, they arise 
out of Him. And consequently this explanation of the 
mystical union is not quite accurate according to Old 
Testament modes of representation. 

These Psalms do not apply some parts to the writer, 
and some to Christ, because the writer is contained in 
Christ ; but because, though the one occupied the same 
office as the other, He was not exhausted in His office, 
but was more than it. If the same things be said of 

1 " He made our offences His offences that He might make His righteousness 
our righteousness. Why should not He who took upon Him the likeness of the 
sinner's flesh, take upon Him also the likeness of the sinner's voice?" Quottd 
hy Binnie, The Psalms, p. 193. 


Christ and the Old Testament saints, it is not because 
Christ is one with them, but because He is one of them. 
All such Psalms are typical Psalms, that is, are said directly 
of the Old Testament person ; but some things are said really, 
and some ideally, or some things are said of him in aspects 
in which he is not typical, that is, does not stand in any 
office, or play any role, essential to the kingdom. Surely 
David, though a type, was not typical in all that he did or 
was. It may be no easy matter, either a priori or as the 
result of induction, to reach principles which shall enable us 
to say within what sphere alone the types were typical, but 
certainly they were not so in all their relations; and this 
explains why, though they be types, some things said of 
them may have no significance in typology, although standing 
beside other things which have a typological meaning. 

There are certain other very interesting passages applied 
to Christ in the New Testament, which may also be called 
typical, the type, however, not being an official in this case, 
but a member of the theocracy, a saint. These passages 
are said of believers, and are realised in Christ as the Author 
and Finisher of the faith, and then, in the Messianic kingdom, 
are realised in the general body of saints. Specimens of this 
class of passages are Ps. 16 and Ps. 8. In Ps. 16 the speaker 
assures himself of immortality and everlasting life to his 
whole nature from his relation to God, because he is a 
covenant member of the theocracy. But the theocratic 
blessedness is realised only in the Messiah. Nay further, 
he who is Saviour (JT^io) to the mass, must be himself first 
saved (JNp) of God. The Messiah goes through that which the 
saint anticipates for himself, and causes it thus to be realised 
in the ordinary saint. Of this the 8th Psalm is an illustra- 
tion. Jehovah has " crowned man with glory and honour, 
and put all things under his feet." But all Jehovah's designs 
find realisation only in the Messianic kingdom. Hence the 
Psalm becomes a prophecy of Messianic man man in the 


Messianic kingdom, the perfection of which has not yet come 
in. But further, this glory of man, as a whole, in the 
Messianic kingdom has to be realised, first of all, in the 
Messiah Himself : " We see not yet all things put under 
Him, but we see Jesus crowned with glory and honour." 1 
And, of course, all rise at last to that to which He has risen. 

From what has been said, we see that a general classifica- 
tion of Messianic passages, so far as the mind of the writer is 
concerned, might be the following : 

First, there are real or directly Messianic passages, in 
giving expression to which the writer really had in his own 
mind that future King or something in His kingdom, or that 
future Person distinct from others of the class to which He 
belonged. In this case (1) the description given by the 
writer may correspond almost exactly with the historical 
relations and circumstances of the Messiah, (2) More fre- 
quently the description has in it many of the elements of 
that form or condition of the kingdom which existed in the 
time of the writer, and which, not unnaturally, he transferred 
into the future, which he always felt to be close at hand. 

Second, there are typical or indirectly Messianic passages, 
in giving expression to which the writer had not in his mind 
the future King or Person Himself, but some present king of 
the theocracy or kingdom of God of his own time, or some 
person who, in this preparatory kingdom of God, corresponded 
in his place or character to the Messiah in the perfect 
kingdom. But in these passages (1) this actual king or 
this person, contemporary with the author (who is often the 
author himself) and his relations, are not spoken of as they 
actually were, but ideally, or according to the true conceptions 
of the theocratic king, kingdom, etc., and their relations. 
Hence such passages may be called ideally Messianic. These 
descriptions are often prayers; as for example Ps. 72. 
These passages will often be found to correspond almost 

1 Heb. 2 8f -. 


exactly to the king, saint, etc., in the perfect form of the 
kingdom of God, which is Christianity. (2) Other passages 
may be of such a kind as to be called ordinarily Messianic, 
because what is said in them may not exceed the possibilities 
of the Old Testament person or thing or relation, and thus 
be applicable both to Old and New. (3) There are other 
passages where only part of the description can be trans- 
ferred to the New Testament person corresponding to the 
person spoken of in the Old. These are therefore called 
partially Messianic; and the explanation of their occurrence 
is, that though the Old Testament person corresponded in 
general to the person in the New, there were also other 
elements in his character real enough as belonging to him, 
but which would have been imperfections or irrelevancies in 
the kingdom of God, so that there were no features answering 
to them in the perfect condition of that kingdom. The parts 
not transferable are said of the Old Testament person, not ae, 
type, but simply as person. 



THE king of God's kingdom is the Davidic king, or son of 
David. The first explicit intimation of this truth was given 
towards the middle of David's reign, just after the king had 
proposed to build an house for Jehovah. The prophet 
Nathan at first approved of the royal project ; but, the very 
night after he had given his assent, the word of the Lord 
came to him, and he was ordered to instruct the king not to 
go on with his scheme, but was at the same time authorised 
to promise David that Jehovah would build his house. This 
most instructive passage runs as follows : " Also the Lord 
telleth thee that He will make thee an house. And when 
thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, 
I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of 
thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build 
an house for My name, and I will establish the throne of 
his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be 
My son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the 
rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men : but 
My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, 
whom I put away before thee. And thine house and thy 
kingdom shall be established for ever before thee : thy throne 
shall be established for ever." x This prophecy is really the 
foundation of all subsequent Messianic prophecy, whether in 
the Prophets or in the Psalms. 

Now, from a reading of this prophecy several things are 

1 2 Sam. 7 llff -. 


at once evident : First, the promises are made not to David, 
but to his seed after him which shall proceed out of his 
bowels. And it is to his seed, not strictly to his son, that 
they are made. Here, seed is not to be interpreted of one 
individual, but of a line of individuals. The first of these 
individuals making up the seed was Solomon ; but the things 
said pertain to the whole family of Davidic kings, not, how- 
ever, to all the members of David's house, but only to 
such of them as filled the throne. Second, the thing promised 
to this seed is that God shall be his father, and he shall be 
God's son. And the thing threatened to this seed is that if 
they sin, God will chasten them with the rod of men ; 
although, even should they sin, His mercy would not depart 
from them, as it did from Saul ; for the house of David and 
his kingdom should be established for ever. But this con- 
tingency here provided for of the seed's sinning and the 
chastisement determined, indicates that the seed, though son 
of God, and never to be wholly cut off, is yet the general 
royal family of David. 

It might, no doubt, be argued that all the suffixed pro- 
nouns refer not to seed in general, but to that one individual, 
namely, Solomon, who was David's seed immediately. And 
this reference might suit some expressions better, e.g. " he 
shall build an house for My name." Should this interpreta- 
tion be preferred, the general sense still remains the same. 
Solomon is then conceived of as an individual, no doubt, but 
as the fountain of a continuous stream of kings. Third, the 
expresssion, " thine house and thy kingdom shall be estab- 
lished for ever," and others in the passage, imply perpetual 
connection of the house of David with the kingdom of God. 
As long as God's kingdom endures, the house of David shall 
rule over it ; the two are from this time inseparably bound 

This was the extraordinary prediction now made. And 
we are not to go about minimising the contents of it, saying 


that ' for ever ' means a long time, and . that the promise 
means no more than that David's line should enjoy possession 
of the throne of Israel for many generations. For, in the 
first place, this was a prediction ; its genuineness is beyond 
controversy. And, second, we shall never have done saying 
that the throne of Israel was the throne of God's kingdom, 
and that the continuance of this kingdom does not depend 
upon the outward form of it. And that this promise took 
an extraordinary hold of the imagination of David himself, 
appears from his words, when an aged saint and near his end. 
In 2 Sam. 2 3 we read : 

" Now these be the last words of David. 
The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, 
And His word was on my tongue. 
The God of Israel said, 
The Rock of Israel spake to me : 
A ruler over men, a just one, 
Billing in the fear of the Lord ; 
As when the morning breaketh and the sun risctli, 
A morning without clouds ; 
The tender grass springeth out of the earth, 
From the clear shining after rain. 
Surely such is my house with God ! 
For He hath made with me an everlasting covenant, 
Ordered in all things, and sure : 
For all my salvation, and all my desire, 
Surely He will make to spring up." 

What David feels is this : that there should yet be realised 
in his house " a ruler over men, a just one, ruling in the fear 
of the Lord " ; that as the sun caused the grass to shoot forth 
on the sultry morning after rain, so Jehovah's fostering grace 
would yet bring forth this king out of his house ; and the 
pledge of this was the eternal covenant of Jehovah with him, 
a covenant ordered in all things, and sure. 


This faith of the inseparable connection of the house of 
David with the throne of the kingdom of God is common to 
all the prophets. Amos says : " In that day will I raise up 
the tabernacle of David that is fallen down . . . and I will 
raise up his ruins, and will build it as in the days of old"; 1 
So also Hosea : " Afterward shall the children of Israel 
return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, 
in the latter days." 2 But by far the most remarkable predic- 
tions regarding the house of David occur in the two con- 
temporary prophets, Isaiah and Micah. The prophecy of 
Isaiah is given in three forms : chap. 7, the prophecy of 
Immanuel; chap. 9, the prophecy of the Child born, whose 
name is the Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God ; and 
that in chap. 11 of the shoot out of the stem of Jesse, and 
the branch from his roots. It is probable that all these pro- 
phecies belong either to the time of the Syro-Ephraimitish 
war or to the early Assyrian period ; and it is remarkable 
that the prophet does not recur to the Messianic hope in 
chaps. 2933 that seem to belong to the latest period of his 
prophetic career. The passages chaps. 9 and 1 1 are admitted 
by all interpreters to be Messianic, but chap. 7 is denied by 
very many to have any Messianic reference. 

The historical circumstances of the prophecy were these : 
In the days of Ahaz, Rezin king of Syria, and Pekah king 
of Israel, formed an alliance, and made war on Judah. The 
object of the allies was probably to compel Judah to enter 
into a great confederacy, having for its object to stem the 
advancing tide of the Assyrian power. The king of Judah 
had refused to listen to the overtures made to him, and 
the Northern allies had therefore resolved to dethrone the 
Davidic house in the person of Ahaz, and set upon the 
throne a tool of their own, a Syrian called the son of 
Tabeel. " And it was told the house of David, saying, 
Syria is confederate with Ephraim ; and his heart was 
1 Amos 9 11 . " Hos. 3 5 . 


moved, and the hearts of his people, as the trees are moved 
\vith the wind." l 

Isaiah's interview with the king seems to have taken 
place after the Northern allies had administered a severe defeat 
to the army of Ahaz, and, after effecting a junction a second 
time, were on their march to attack the capital. The king 
had gone outside the walls to inspect the defences, or perhaps 
to cut off supplies of water from the besiegers. Isaiah was 
directed to meet him, taking with him his son, Shear-jashub 
' Benmant-shall-return.' There was a promise to Ahaz in 
this child's very presence. But besides this silent promise, 
Isaiah made him a distinct verbal one : " It shall not stand, 
neither shall it come to pass." 

Perhaps even while the prophet was speaking to the 
cold and reluctant king, he detected signs of incredulity in 
him ; so silently and with such want of emotion were his 
words received, that he could detect the secret resolve of 
Ahaz already formed, not to trust to Jehovah's help alone, 
but to call to his aid the king of Assyria. Hence the 
prophet declares : " If ye will not believe, surely ye shall 
not be established." Probably the king gave no response to 
these assurances. Without deep religion himself, he was 
incredulous and alarmed. The prophet, to remove his fear 
and incredulity, offered the corroboration of any sign he 
might ask : " Ask a sign of the Lord thy God." Ahaz rejected 
this offer also, being either too cold to enter into the prophet's 
enthusiasm, or too sceptical to put much faith in supernatural 
help. He therefore put aside the offer of supernatural assur- 
ance by saying that it was unnecessary, and that the word of 
God was sufficient ; but all the while he was resolved, as 
soon as the prophet left him, to call in the arm of Assyria. 

Now, here in this conjunction of circumstances we have 
the elements out of which the extraordinary prediction of 
Immanuel arose. The elements are these : 

1 Isa. 7 2 . 


1. The Northern alliance of Syria and Ephraim, and their 
declared resolution, which was to depose the house of David 
and set up a new dynasty in Jerusalem, even the son of 
Tabeel. This Northern confederacy was of overwhelming 
power, so far as mere material strength was concerned. 
Ahaz could do little to resist it, and had already been 
defeated before it. And its purpose was a root and branch 
destruction of the independence of the Southern kingdom, 
and the deposition of the royal house. 

Here, now, were the conditions and the instruments of 
fulfilling that which Isaiah had long foreseen as principles 
that must be fulfilled. The condition of Israel was such 
that he knew the theocracy must be dissolved, in order to 
found a purer kingdom. Now this dissolution was at hand. 
Assyria was the rod of Jehovah's anger. The prophet in a 
moment adjusted himself to the elements of the world 
around him, and disposed them all in their places. But 
these external movements in the world, although on the 
grandest scale, were but embodiments of principles, which 
the prophet had held long before the movements took place. 

2. The second point of importance was the invocation 
by the king of the aid of Assyria, and the intervention of 
the great world-empire in the affairs of Israel. The people 
of God and the world-power were now confronted. The 
very crisis which the prophet had long foreseen to be in- 
evitable was now actually in progress. The outlines of his 
first vision the desolation of his country, and the ultimate 
preservation of only a remnant were going to be filled up. 
Ahaz's hope that the Assyrian would deliver him from Syria 
and Ephraim might be realised, for that was Jehovah's pur- 
pose ; but, while giving temporary deliverance, he would prove 
the rod of Jehovah's anger, and bring ruin upon Juclah. Yet 
the ruin would not be final ; the stock of the tree cut down 
would remain, and send forth a new growth. 

3. But another thing must be noted, namely, the peculi- 


arity of prophecy, which compresses great momenta into a 
brief space, which brings up great movements close upon the 
back of one another, and takes them all in at one glance of 
the eye. This peculiarity some writers on prophecy have 
called its perspective, or, to use an expression of Delitzsch's, 
the foreshortening of the prophet's horizon. Just as a 
traveller, at a distance from a mountainous region, sees 
one mountain rise up behind another, and fancies it close 
at the back of the nearer, but when he reaches the nearer, 
finds that the one which seemed so close behind it has 
receded, and really stands far away ; so, in the prophetic 
view, great events crowd up close behind one another, which, 
however, in actual fulfilment are widely apart in time. 

The term ' perspective ' applied to this peculiarity of 
prophecy is a description of the phenomenon, but is un- 
happily no explanation of it. The explanation is usually 
found in the prophetic vision. But vision in the strict 
sense was rare ; and if we look into our Lord's prophecy of 
the end, we observe the same peculiarity, the two great 
events which He has in view the destruction of Jerusalem 
and the end of the world seem immediately combined ; 
immediately after the tribulation of these days shall the sun 
be darkened. Perhaps, though we cannot assume anything 
like strict vision, there may have been a powerful exercise of 
the intuitional faculty, which presented the events together, 
taking little note of time, or contracting the time into what 
seemed a period of a very few years. 

However we explain it, we observe the operation of this 
peculiarity in the prophet's representation. He clothes his 
great ideas in events, and these events are immediately 
present, or in immediate proximity. The Lord's work is 
short. The consummation is determined. The actors in the 
drama are already on the stage, Jehovah and His people and 
the world-power. These are not forces, but absolute forces. 
They are the embodiment of universal conceptions. Their 


meeting is the signal for the final conflict ; and when the 
conflict subsides, the dawn of peace breaks eternal behind 
it. The darkness of the Assyrian invasion, the sudden break- 
ing of the light, the endless duration of the reign of the 
Prince of peace, follow one another like rapidly shifting 
scenes. " They shall pass through the land, hardly bestead 
and hungry. And it shall come to pass, that they shall look 
unto the earth ; and behold distress and darkness, the gloom 
of anguish, and thick darkness driven away. For there shall 
not be gloom to her that was in anguish. In the former 
time He brought low the land of Zebulun, and the land of 
Naphtali, but in the latter time hath He made it glorious, 
the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. 
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great 
light. . . . For all the armour of the armed men, and 
garments rolled in blood, shall be for burning, for fuel of 
fire. For a child is born to us, a son is given to us ; and 
his name shall be called the Wonderful Counsellor, the 
mighty God. Of the increase of his government and of 
peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David." 
The Northern regions, first and most cruelly desolated by the 
Assyrian, are the first to experience the deliverance, or at 
least they feel the joy of it most keenly, " they joy before 
Thee as men joy in harvest." And the Messiah's kingdom 
is established on the ruins left by the Assyrian. 

The prophet's description might appear to us nothing 
but a political deliverance. " The yoke of his burden, and 
the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, Thou hast 
broken as in the day of Midian." Now, of course, it must 
be admitted that neither Isaiah nor any of the prophets had 
yet attained to the idea of a people of God, which was not a 
people in the natural sense, that is, a nation among other 
nations with a country, and possessing national independence. 
This idea continued to be cherished at all times. Even the 
ciisciples shortly before our Lord's ascension put the question 


to Him, " Wilt Thou at this time restore the kingdom unto 
Israel ? " But the deliverance was not merely political. 
Jehovah was the people's Lawgiver; He was their Judge 
and their King. And in the restored kingdom of God He 
was present in the Messianic king, who was called the 
Mighty God. 

But to return to chap. 7. When the king rejected the 
offer of a sign, the prophet replied, " The Lord Himself will 
give you a sign ; Behold, the virgin (nopjjn) shall conceive, and 
bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel, God-with-us, 
or, God-is-with-us. Milk and honey shall he eat, by the 
time he knows to refuse the evil, and choose the good. 
For before the child knows to refuse evil, and choose good, 
the land shall be desolate, before whose two kings thou 
fearest. The Lord is bringing on thee, and on thy father's 
house, days that have not been from the day that Ephraim 
departed from Judah ; even the king of Assyria. . . . And 
it shall come to pass in that day, that milk and honey 
shall every one eat that is left in the land,"- that is, the 
country shall be reduced from an agricultural to a pastoral 
condition. And a catastrophe shall befall the house of 
David comparable only to that great humiliation which rent 
away from it the ten tribes. Yet behind this there shall 
one rise out of that house, who is Immanuel God-is-with-us. 

Now, many explanations have been given of the passage, 
which is full of difficulties, partly because it is very con- 
densed, and perhaps gives but a mere outline of what 
occupied a much larger space, when spoken orally. We 
must, however, keep in view these general principles, namely, 
the purpose of the Northern coalition to set aside the 
Davidic house ; and, secondly, the approaching collision be- 
tween the great Assyrian power and the small kingdoms of 
Israel and Judah, and the light which this threw to the 
prophet upon the purposes of Jehovah, and the illumination 
it cast upon what he had long, on moral grounds, seen to 


be inevitable, the destruction of the kingdoms of Israel and 
Judah, a work for which the instrument was now at hand. 
Finally, we must also take into account the peculiarity of 
prophetic representation, the tendency to operate, if I can 
say so, with principles, with absolute conceptions, such as 
the true Jehovah religion on the one hand and the false 
religion of the idols on the other, the kingdom of the Lord 
on the one side and its foes on the other, and to throw these 
absolute religious conceptions into the actual events of the 
present, to see the conceptions embodied and verified in the 
events, and to present them as coming into conflict in the 
immediate or near future. 

If, therefore, we take into account these principles and this 
peculiarity of prophecy which is a peculiarity belonging to 
prophecy, however we may explain it, we do get an explana- 
tion of the prophet's words. He says to Ahaz, " The Lord 
Himself shall give you a sign." The sign is not one which 
Ahaz would have liked. The prophet's thoughts take a 
wider range. He casts his eye forward over the whole 
destiny of the kingdom of Jehovah. He draws out the 
programme of his own great conceptions. The sign is 
mainly the embodiment of his general teaching. It con- 
tains two elements, first, the great judgment which shall 
sweep over the whole of the people of Jehovah, North and 
South. " The Lord will bring upon thee days that have 
not been since Ephraim separated from Judah. Milk and 
honey shall every one eat that is left in the land." The 
country shall be reduced to mere pasture-land, a walk for 
sheep and cattle, and a hunting-ground, where it is not 
impenetrable forest. This shall be the condition of North 
and South alike. But the second element is that which 
the prophet sees rising up behind this, the salvation. " A 
virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his 
name Immanuel, God-is-with-us." 

Now the complete parallelism of this line of thought 


with the prophecy in chap. 9 of ' the child born, and son 
given,' makes it most probable that the Immanuel of this 
chapter is identical with the child of chap. 9, who is ad- 
mitted, on all hands, to be the Messiah of the house of 
David. In fact, the abrupt way in which the child is 
introduced in chap. 9 as one well known, seems to imply 
that he had been already referred to by the prophet ; and 
such a reference could only be to this passage in chap. 7. 
The name Immanuel, God-is-with-us, is at least significant 
as a name. Behind the Assyrian desolation there rises, out 
of the ruins, the kingdom of Jehovah. The Lord hath 
founded Zion ; and in it the poor of His people will find 
refuge. Immanuel is a sign, at any rate, of ultimate salva- 
tion. The name has no reference to the Northern coalition. 
It is never brought into relation with Syria and Ephrairn, 
like Maher-shalal-hash-baz in chap. 8 X ~ 4 ; but it is brought into 
relation with Assyria. " The spreading out of his wings " 
i.e. the Assyrian armies coming like an inundation " shall 
fill the breadth of thy land, Immanuel." 

Another exposition of the prophecy is this : The virgin, 
and Immanuel her child, are hypothetical persons, supposi- 
tions. The prophet says to the king : Thou ref usest to ask 
a sign ; then the Lord Himself will give thee one. Behold, 
the young woman, any one, she who is not a girl but a 
young adult woman, will conceive, and bear a son, whom 
she will name ' God-is-with-us ' ; and the two kings, before 
whom thou fearest, shall then have come to destruction as 
the Lord has said. By the time the child can distinguish 
between good and evil, he will live on milk and honey, and 
all left in the land will live on milk and honey, for the 
Assyrian and the Egyptian will make the land their battle- 
ground, and devastate it. According to this interpretation, 
the sign is merely a promise cast into a figurative form ; 
the virgin and Immauuel are mere concrete expressions of 
the idea, and the idea is entirely one of time, of the 


periods that shall intervene till the promise is fulfilled. 
The time is at hand. She, who is not a child that has to 
grow up, but is already grown up, and who may be the 
mother of a son in a year, shall call her child, in token 
of deliverance from Syria, God-is-with-us. And in two or 
three years more, the child and all left in the land shall 
eat milk and honey, because the land shall be desolate, 
and 110 longer cultivated. The prophet might just as well 
have cast his prophecy into terms drawn from the vegetable 
world, as into terms borrowed from human life ; he might 
have said: Behold the fig tree, it will blossom and bring 
forth fruit ; then men will say, ' God is with us ' the fruit 
will fall off, and the tree wither, and by that time the 
Assyrians shall be in the land. 

This interpretation, though it happily disposes of the 
difficulty of the Almah, is less successful in removing our 
doubts in regard to Immanuel. And of course it seems to 
fail of doing justice to the New Testament. In regard to 
the last named difficulty, those who interpret the passage in 
this way would probably argue as follows. They would say : 
We must always distinguish between the things which New 
Testament writers affirm, and corroborate by Old Testament 
passages, and the proofs or corroboratious which they adduce. 
The things which they assert we take on their authority ; but 
the kind of proofs they bring forward for them from the Old 
Testament, however valid they may have seemed to those to 
whom they were addressed, and however well they served as 
evidence then, may not appear so conclusive to us. But this 
is of less consequence, because these Old Testament passages 
are never the primary evidence, they are only corroborations. 
We, for example, believe in the resurrection of our Lord, 
because there is historical evidence for it ; the argument of 
the Apostle Peter, based on the 16th Psalm, is not the main 
evidence, it is at best confirmative. And in like manner we be- 
lieve in the birth of our Lord from a virgin, because a historian 


narrates it, who declares that he had perfect knowledge of 
all things from the first. The things which we believe are 
not dependent on a mere method of exegesis of certain Old 
Testament passages ; they are supported by evidence valid in 
itself. And the method of exposition referred to had its 
uses in its day, though in some respects it has yielded to 
another method now. Perhaps it might be added that the 
Septuagint translation of nnpy by irapdevos may be considered 
in some sense providential. It led men to anticipate the 
truth, or it made the truth, when revealed, more readily 
credible. Such, I believe, would be the line of argument 
pursued. And it is, no doubt, a happy thing that for all the 
great truths which we believe, we have historical evidence of 
a kind which we can trust, apart from all inferences made 
from the Old Testament or corroborations derived from 
prophecy. At the same time, when we consider that Chris- 
tianity is the issue of the prior Old Testament period, it is 
not improbable, it is rather to be expected, that hints should 
have been given even of its greatest mysteries. 

Apart from the New Testament, the interpretation re- 
ferred to is scarcely worthy of the circumstances. The 
whole chapter refers to the house of David. It is that 
house which is invited to ask a sign, and it is to it that 
the sign is given. The sign seems to concern it ; and, 
indeed, at the moment its existence was at stake, and we 
naturally expect, therefore, that the sign given will have 
particular reference to it. Now, the two points in regard 
to the house of David, to which the prophecy attaches 
itself, are these: (1) It was threatened with extinction; the 
promise is made that one, who is to be called God-is-with- 
us, shall come out of it. (2) The house of David was 
degenerate in Ahaz, and unbelieving, with no faith in 
Jehovah. In opposition to this state of things, a true 
king, whose name shall be God-is-with-us, shall arise out 
of that now degenerate house. 


Again, the extraordinary offer made by the prophet to 
the king, " Ask a sign ; ask it in the depth beneath, or ask 
it in the heaven above," indicates that Isaiah was prepared 
to give Ahaz something miraculous, something similar to 
that sign given to Hezekiah, when the shadow went back 
on the dial ten degrees. Once more, the passionateness 
with which Isaiah turns upon the king, when he put away 
his offer, " Hear now, house of David, is it a small thing 
for you to weary men, that ye weary my God also ? 
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign," leads 
us to expect something extraordinary, something bearing on 
the final destinies of Israel and the house of David. No 
doubt there is a certain threat in the words, for Immanuel 
shall appear when the country has been reduced to a desola- 
tion. In this the sign resembles the prediction of the child 
in chap. 9. And, finally, in chap. 8 7 it is said : " Behold, 
the Lord bringeth up upon them the waters of the river, 
strong and mighty, even the king of Assyria. . . . And he 
shall pass through Judah . . . and the stretching out of 
his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, Immanuel." 
This reference seems inconsistent with the idea that 
Immanuel is anybody born at a particular time. The land 
of Judah is called his land. This would suggest that he 
is king of the country, and identical with the child born in 
chap. 9, who sits on the throne of David. 

We now come to the interpretation, which regards 
Immanuel as the Messianic king, him who is referred to in 
chap. 9 as the child born, and in chap. 11 as ruling in 
the strength of the Spirit of the Lord. This interpretation 
gives a fuller sense to the name Immanuel ; and it connects 
him with the house of David, to which the sign was given. 
The sign given to the house of David, so far as it is a 
promise, is that one shall come out of it, who shall be 
God-with-us ; and this is the guarantee of its stability and 
great destiny; and so far as it is a threat, it is that He 


shall not appear, till the land and the people have reached 
the lowest depth of distress. The difficulty of the term 
translated 'the virgin' still remains. If that term had 
unequivocally expressed ' virginity ' there would have been 
no difficulty. But probably the word, though apparently 
always used of an unmarried woman, means properly an 
adult young woman. At the same time the difficulty 
would not have been removed if the more strict term nTinzi 
betJmlali, had been employed ; for in Joel I 8 that term is 
used of a young married woman. Nothing but some circum- 
locution would have been sufficient to obviate objection, and 
express the idea of virginity without ambiguity. It has been 
thought by some that the wife of the prophet is intended ; 
but why call her the maiden ? She is called the 'prophetess' 
in chap. 8 2 . Others think of the wife of the king. This is 
less unnatural, if any circumstances could be suggested for 
her being spoken of as the maiden. The presence of the 
article may be explained in two ways : either as generic, 
expressing kind, as we speak of the horse ; or as pointing 
out a known individual. Now, there is a very particular 
Semitic use of this article. A noun is made definite some- 
times just by the particular thing that is going to be said 
about it. For example, in Gen. 28 11 it is said, Jacob lighted 
upon a certain place, in Hebrew upon the place; and he 
dreamed a dream. The word ' place ' is definite on account 
of what is about to be said of it, the place where the 
incident just to be narrated befell. It might be that the 
article here is of this sort. A maiden she who is to bear 
shall bear a son, and call his name Immanuel. 1 

1 Various explanations are given of the definite article : 1. Many call it 
the generic article. But it is doubtful if this article is ever used in making a 
prediction which does not apply to the whole genus or class. For this article 
English uses the indefinite article. For example, an horse for preservation is 
vain DID?, Heb. the horse, or as we say, horses. In the history of Gideon 
5^313 p 1 ?; -it5>(o as the dog, or as we say, a dog, i.e. as dogs lap. Samson rent the 
lion, as one rends 'i?n the kid, i.e. a kid or kids. If this were the usage, I 


In Mic. 5 1-3 we read : " And thou, Bethlehem Ephratah 
. . . out of thee shall one come forth unto rne that is to be 
ruler in Israel. . . . Therefore will the Lord deliver them 
over until the time that one who will bear shall have brought 
forth. . . . And he shall stand and shall feed his flock in 
the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the 
Lord his God. . . . And this one shall be peace." Here we 
have the same circle of ideas as in Isaiah. The horizon of 
Micah is the same as that of Isaiah ; it is bounded by the 
destruction of the Assyrian world-power. The same extra- 
ordinary ruler is looked for out of the house of David, and 
the same marked emphasis is laid upon his mother. The 
prophecy of Micah was spoken in the days of Hezekiah, and 
therefore not less than ten, possibly more than twenty, years 
after Isaiah's. It is not, of course, certain whether this pro- 
phecy be independent of Isaiah's, or a repetition of it. If 
it be independent, the prophet refers to her who shall bear, 
and whose bearing shall be the end of Israel's troubles ; for 
the Lord will give them up to their enemies till that time, 
but the ruler shall come forth and deliver them. It is indis- 
putable that Micah speaks here of the Messiah, and his 
reference to her who shall bear Him corroborates the inter- 
pretation which takes the Alniah in Isaiah as the mother of 
the Messiah. On the other hand, if Micah's prophecy be 
dependent on Isaiah's, and a repetition of it, it must be 

suspect the meaning would be not a virgin, but virgins shall bear sons, the 

2. The use of the article is probably one of two uses : (1) Either that 
peculiar use according to which a subject or person becomes definite to the 
mind of the writer just from the circumstances in which the person appears or 
the part he plays. This is a very common use ; Moses wrote the prediction 
against Amalek nsoa in the book, i.e. the book taken or used for the purpose. 
Kahab let down the spies h^na by the rope, i.e. the rope used. Jael took the 
tent pin. In all these cases our language says a, book, a, rope, a tent pin. So 
here an Almali ; she may be definite to the prophet's mind just from the event 
which he narrates connected with her, she is the Almali of which this shall be 
true. Or (2) the article might refer to an already known Almah ; this, of 
course, is the commonest use of the article. 


regarded as an interpretation of it, an intimation of how it 
was read ten or twenty or more years after it was uttered. 
And again, this intimation tells in favour of regarding the 
Almah in Isaiah as the mother of the Messiah ; for in Micah's 
time the prophecy still remained unfulfilled, and still bore on 
Israel's final destiny, and still contained the same pregnant 


From this examination of the prophecy, it follows that 
what enables us to interpret it is partly the general scope of 
Isaiah's conceptions, and partly the general nature of prophecy. 
The prophet from the beginning had expressed his assurance 
from the nature of Jehovah and from the condition of the 
people, first, that great judgments must overtake them, but 
that a full end would not be made, behind the judgments 
rose the final salvation. These were fixed conceptions of the 
prophet. From the beginning these general conceptions 
dominated all that he said, from his first appearance onwards. 
They were conceptions, however, which were rather of the 
nature of moral necessities, articles of belief, but held ab- 
stractly. Now, with the appearance of the Assyrian, called 
in by Ahaz, there suddenly presented themselves before the 
prophet's view the historical instruments through which his 
great moral certainties were to find fulfilment. Assyria 
would devastate Judah and Ephraim in common, and reduce 
the country to pasture-la. nd and forest. In this way would 
Isaiah's anticipations of judgment find actual fulfilment. 

But behind this, his anticipations of salvation would also 
be realized. The house of David, now corrupt, would suffer 
greater humiliations than overtook it even at the revolt of 
the ten tribes. The same fate would befall it, that would 
befall the people. They would be cut down to the root ; yet 
out of the stock a new growth would spring, which would rise 
up into a new nation, and all that should be left would be 
called ' holy.' And in like manner the house of David, now 
unworthy, would be cut down to the roots ; but out of the 


root of Jesse a branch would grow on whom the spirit of the 
Lord w r ould rest. This branch is Immanuel, who will arise 
amidst the nation's humiliation, which he will share ; but 
lie himself, as well as his name, is token of the final salvation 
of the Lord. 

To our colder and more logical cast of mind the prophetic 
manner of representation occasions much difficulty. All these 
great movements seem to the prophet to follow rapidly on 
one another, to be all condensed within a brief space of time. 
Whatever be the explanation of this peculiarity of prophecy, 
that it is a characteristic of prophecy cannot be doubted. 
When we come to the second half of Isaiah, we shall find 
the perfect and final felicity of Israel represented as com- 
mencing with the restoration for which Cyrus gave permis- 
sion ; and in Daniel we observe the perfect kingdom of the 
Lord appearing at once on the death of the tyrant Antiochus. 
No explanation seems natural except we fall back on the 
prophet's idealism. Now that the world-power, in the form 
of Assyria, has come upon the stage, two great conceptions 
fill Isaiah's mind, that of the kingdom of the world, the 
ideal foe of Jehovah, and that of Jehovah's kingdom itself. 
These two ideals fill the prophet's mind. He sees them com- 
ing into conflict. The conflict is of universal meaning of 
absolute significance, and final in its issues. And behind the 
conflict rises the victorious kingdom of the truth : " For every 
greave of the warrior stamping in the fray, and the garments 
rolled in blood shall be for burning, for fuel of fire. For 
unto us a child is born, and his name shall be called the 
Prince of peace." 

Unless we realise the idealism of the prophets, and I 
may add, their poetry also, it is hopeless to seek to under- 
stand them. The greatest foe to the intelligence of the Old 
Testament is the prosaic mind the mind that looks every- 
where for bare, abstract dogma, and for definite predictions of 
the future, and is unable to perceive the bright colouis of 


idealism and imagination in which Old Testament truth is 
set forth. Yet truth is set forth in the Old Testament, the 
same truth as in the New, namely, the conflict of the king- 
dom of evil with the kingdom of the truth, and the victory of 
the latter, the eternal victory a victory eternal and secure, 
because its issue is embodied in one who is God-with-us. 
The prophet paints a New Testament picture, though he sets 
it in an Old Testament frame. 

In the prophecy contained in chaps. 8-9 the same modes 
of thought appear, and it will be sufficient just to mention 
the several steps. Under the figure of a great inundation 
by a river, the advance of the Assyrian power is described. 
He fills all his channels, rises over all his banks, overflows 
Ephraim, and sweeps also into Judah, rising to the neck and 
submerging all beneath his waters ; and the outspreading of 
his wings fills the breadth of thy land, Immanuel. But 
at the mention of Immanuel the prophet's courage rises, and 
he flings defiance at the Assyrian and all the peoples of the 
world under his standard : Eage, ye peoples, but ye shall 
be broken to pieces. Gird yourselves, but ye shall be broken 
in pieces. Purpose a purpose, and it shall come to nought : 
for Immanuel God is with us. 1 

From depicting the great calamity that is imminent, the 
prophet turns to exhort the people and to teach them, 
especially the pious among them, the attitude to observe 
until the judgment be overpast : " Call not anything a con- 
spiracy which this people calls a conspiracy ; neither fear ye 
what they fear. Sanctify Jehovah, and let Him be your fear." 
It is not the external foe that is the true object of dread, it 
is Jehovah ; not that which is without the people, the world- 
forces, but He who is in the midst of them. And then the 
prophet expresses the attitude taken by himself : " I will wait 
for Jehovah, who hideth His face, and will look for Him." He 
feels himself entering upon a great darkness ; and entrance 

1 Isa. S 9 - 10 . 


upon it is inevitable. To him Jehovah's face is already hid ; 
but speedily all will feel it ; and a darkness will settle down 
on the land, which has no daybreak. Then some terrible 
pictures are given of the scanty, famished population, 
wandering over the desolate and sterile land : " And it shall 
come to pass that, when they are hungry, they will curse 
their god and their king, and will look upward." l And with 
this turning to heaven, the darkness is dispelled : " The 
people that walked in darkness have seen a great light. 
In the former time He brought dishonour upon the land 
of Zebulun and of Naphtali ; but in the latter time He has 
honoured it, the way of the sea, Galilee of the Gentiles. 
The people that sat in the region of the shadow of death, 
light has sprung up to them. For a child is born to us, 
and the government shall be on his shoulder; and of the 
increase of his government and of peace there shall be no 
end upon the throne of David." 

We have here just the same thoughts as before, the 
same scenes rapidly succeeding one another, and the same 
ultimate issue, the salvation of the Lord. The prophet is 
operating with great general conceptions. Yet it is impos- 
sible to hold these conceptions abstractly, such is not the 
manner of the prophets ; hence Isaiah embodies them in con- 
crete phenomena, but makes them follow one another in 
rapid succession. To him and to all his contemporaries it 
did not occur that it would take seven hundred or eight 
hundred years to unrol that picture, and translate it into 
history. If he or his people had foreseen this, it is hard 
to see how their faith could have been sustained. But the 
hope was presented to them in such a way that it appeared 
realisable within a brief space of time. It was a salvation, 
like salvation at all times, that was ready to be revealed. 

In chap. 7 it is not said that Immanuel will be of the 
house of David, though, the prophecy being given to the 

1 Isa. 8 21 . 


house of David, this is naturally suggested. Here it is 
expressly stated that the ' child borii ' is to sit upon the 
throne of David. The four names given to the prince are : 
a wonder of a Counsellor ; God mighty ; Father for ever ; 
Prince of peace. These names are names proper to a ruler 
and king : he is a wonder of a counsellor, i.e. frames 
projects and enterprises beforehand in a wonderful or, as 
we might say, superhumanly wise manner ; for the root s6a 
usually means that which is divine, or at least beyond man. 
Secondly, he is God mighty ; the words are two nouns in 
apposition. This refers to the execution of his counsels. 
Third, he is everlasting father of his people. And, finally, 
Prince of peace ; this is the final result of all, for peace 
means what we call salvation ; the state of enjoyment of all 
that is called blessing. It is difficult to be sure whether 
this Prince be represented as taking any part in that conflict 
which results in the destruction of the foe of Jehovah's 
kingdom, or whether this be not attributed to Jehovah alone ; 
in which case this great ruler appears only as the king of 
a people saved by Jehovah, whose salvation He eternally 
secured to them. This seems to be the manner of the repre- 
sentation, although there are scarcely materials to decide 
with certainty. 

With regard to these four names, it may be noticed, first, 
that they are often used in reference to Jehovah Himself. 
In chap. 2 8 29 it is said " this also cometh from Jehovah of 
hosts, who is wonderful in counsel." In chap. 10 21 it is said 
that a " remnant shall return unto God-mighty," who in the 
preceding verse is called " Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel." 
In Jer. 31 the Lord says : " I will cause them to walk in a 
straight way: for I am a Father unto Israel." In Isa. 63 16 : 
" Thou, Lord, art our Father, our Eedeemer." In Isa. 54 10 : 
" The mountains shall depart ; but My covenant of peace shall 
not be removed " ; in chap. 66 12 : " Behold, I will extend peace 
to her like a river." 


It is certainly the meaning of the prophet that the 
attributes expressed by these divine names really belong to 
the Davidic king, and are displayed by him in the rule of the 
people. It is said his name shall be called Wonderful 
Counsellor. The name in Hebrew expresses that which the 
person is, or specially that which is visible and manifest in 
him. Being called anything, implies being that thing. In chap. 
I 26 it is said of Jerusalem : " Afterwards thou shalt be called 
City of Eighteousness." In chap. 4 s : " He that remaineth in 
Jerusalem shall be called holy." It is not just to draw a 
distinction between ' being ' and ' being called ' ; being called 
is merely a recognition of being a wonderful counsellor, etc. 
The meaning is not that the Davidic kin is a mere sio-n 

* ' O O 

that Jehovah is present with His people in counsel, in might, 
in fatherhood, and peace. Jehovah is present in these 
attributes and operations in the person of the king ; or 
rather the king is the manifestation of Jehovah present in 
these attributes. It is evident that the terms describe that 
which the king is, not that of which he is a mere symbol ; 
for in chap. 11, where virtually the same statements are 
made, it is said " that the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon 
him, a spirit of counsel and of might." Here the counsel 
and might, being the fruits of the spirit of the Lord, are, 
of course, personal attributes of the king. 

Now it may not be quite easy to say what precisely is 
meant by these statements of the prophet regarding the 
identification of Jehovah and the Messianic king. Of course 
it is not meant that they are personally one ; that the 
Messiah is Jehovah or God. The distinction between the 
two is maintained. In our modes of thought, a factor is 
always introduced which hardly appears at all in the Old 
Testament, namely, the nature or essence of God. And we 
put the question, Is the Messiah the same in essence with 
Jehovah ? But probably the idea of the substance of the 
divine nature does not occur in the Old Testament. 


The nearest that any passage appears to come is Isa. 3 1 3 : 
" Now the Egyptians are men, and not God ; their horses 
flesh, and not spirit." Here God is considered spiritual or 
spirit : but ' spirit ' in the Old Testament does not express a 
substance, but a quality. As flesh is a synonym for weak- 
ness and decay, spirit expresses power, efficient energy. And 
this is, no doubt, the meaning of this verse. The question is 
what the Egyptians and their horses can effect against Jehovah 
and spirit. When God is thought of as spiritual, that im- 
plies not that He is a particular kind of substance, but, negat- 
ively, that He is not flesh, and not representable in form, 
nor subject to any of the limitations of matter, and positively, 
that He is power particularly life-giving power, or that 
highest kind of power which we name spiritual and ethical. 
The Old Testament conceives Jehovah as a person, no doubt ; 
but it does not speculate on any substance which has 
attributes the attributes are those of a person ethical and 
spiritual in the sense of powerful. Now, it might seem a 
descent from the lofty appellations in chap. 9, such as God- 
mighty, when in chap. 1 1 it is said that " the spirit of the 
Lord shall rest upon the Messiah." The spirit is sixfold or 
threefold, and the attributes conferred are, as before, those of 
a ruler of the kingdom of God. (1) Wisdom and discernment, 
i.e. in judging particular causes that may come before the 
king. (2) Counsel and might : these point to his more 
public and general function as regent of the people as a 
whole; and (3) knowledge and the fear of the Lord: these 
have reference to his own personal knowledge of God. To 
us mere endowment with the spirit of Jehovah seems a less 
thing than to be called God-mighty. But again the Old 
Testament doctrine of the spirit may modify this feeling. 

The doctrine of the spirit of God in the Old Testament 
is certainly obscure. The Old Testament does not teach 
that Jehovah is spirit, except as a synonym for power ; it 
teaches that He has a spirit. He has a spirit, just as man 



has a spirit. And though in speech we can distinguish 
between man and his spirit, virtually the spirit of man is 
man. And the spirit of God is God, but with that con- 
notation which spirit always carries of energy and power. 
The spirit of God is God exerting power, especially life- 
giving power, or that highest power which we call spiritual. 
And though there are some passages where Jehovah seems to 
exert this energy, not being Himself present, He is usually 
considered present. The spirit of the Lord is the Lord 
present and exerting spiritual energy. And thus chap. 11 
expresses the same conceptions as chap. 9. 

The significance of the prophet's words probably lies in 
the turn that he gives to the old conception of the perfect 
condition of the people. This conception was that the 
perfect salvation of the people would be attained through 
Jehovah's personal coming and abiding among them ; then 
the union of God and man would be perfect, and the idea of 
the redemptive covenant would be realised. The very 
significant variation which this prophet gives to that concep- 
tion is that Jehovah's final and perfect presence will be 
realised through the Davidic king; He will be God-is-with- 
us, God-mighty. This is the lofty height which the Messianic 
idea reaches in Isaiah. 

It is quite probable that that conception which we 
express by saying that God became man was not yet present. 
Eeaders of this prophet would not yet conclude that the 
Davidic king was God ; only that Jehovah was really present 
in him, in His power and wisdom and fatherly goodness, for 
the saving and ruling of His people for ever ; only that 
Jehovah manifested Himself truly and fully in him. The 
passage goes very far ; and though our own doctrine of 
incarnation contains a positive conception in it which Old 
Testament saints perhaps did not entertain, we are obliged to 
limit that positive by negations which seem somewhat to 
neutralise it. Though we use the word ' became,' we affirm 


at the same time that the two natures remain distinct, and 
that the divine suffered no change, and no confusion or 
composition with the human. 

The prophet's general eschatological view is very wide, 
and in various directions much more developed than that of 
Amos and Hosea. In Amos, no process of redemption appears 
within the people. He that is unjust remains unjust still, 
and he that is righteous is righteous still. The sinners of 
God's people are destroyed. The nation is sifted with a 
sieve, and not a grain falls to the ground. The separation 
of righteous and wicked is, so to speak, mechanical. The 
righteous are restored, and the throne of David is set up 
anew. Only a few general outlines are drawn by the prophet. 

The representation in Hosea is different. He does not 
distinguish between righteous and wicked. The nation is to 
him one moral person, the faithless spouse of Jehovah. The 
Lord allures her into the wilderness, He speaks to her heart, 
and she responds as in the days of old. She comes to 
understand that not the Baals, but Jehovah gave her her 
corn and wine ; that He alone is God ; and she says, " I will 
return unto my first husband." She takes unto her words, 
and says, " Take away all iniquity, receive us graciously : so 
will we render unto thee the calves of our lips. Asshur shall 
not save us ; we will not ride upon horses : neither will we 
say any more unto the work of our hands, Ye are our gods." 
Israel seeks Jehovah her God and David her king in the 
latter days. That is to say, the people in its unity is con- 

In Amos, the restoration is accomplished by Jehovah, 
though no mention is made of any means or process. In 
Hosea, the community repents, and comes to a right mind. 
This repentance is brought about by God's providential treat- 
ment of the people, by their exile and sorrows. In Isaiah 
there appears the idea of a remnant. The conception of his 
inaugural vision is maintained throughout. The nation and 


land suffer repeated devastations ; the tree is cut down to 
the root, but the stock remains, the source of a new growth, 
a remnant shall return to the mighty God. The prophet 
does not seem to contemplate any break, as there is in Hosea, 
when Israel is not My people. There is continuity, the 
holy seed is imperishable. But around this point several 
questions arise. By what means is this remnant preserved 
or created ? 

It is probable that Isaiah gathered around him a band of 
faithful men ; that he not only taught, but practically founded 
a new community. A remarkable passage in chap. 8 suggests 
what was the principle that bound this community together, 
faith in Jehovah : " The Lord of hosts, Him shall ye 
sanctify ; and let Him be your fear, and let Him be your 
dread. . . . Bind thou up the testimony, seal the law 
among my disciples. And I will wait for the Lord, who 
hideth His face, and I will look for Him." This was the 
preserving principle on the side of men. On the side of 
the Lord there was, no doubt, His strange work, His chastise- 
ments, and His deliverance. But the prophet signalises also 
a more special power : " The populous city shall be deserted, 
the Ophel and the watch-tower shall be for dens for ever, a 
joy of wild asses ; until the spirit be poured upon us from 
on high, and the wilderness become a fruitful field, and the 
fruitful field (i.e. that now is) be thought a bush." l The 
same spirit that shall rest on the king shall also be poured 
out on the people. Hence a king shall reign in righteous- 
ness, and princes shall rule in justice. And each man shall 
be to all others an hiding-place from the wind, and a covert 
from the tempest, as rivers of water in a dry place, and the 
shadow of a great rock in a weary land. And eyes shall no 
more be dim, and ears shall hearken ; the heart also of the 
hasty shall understand knowledge. A spiritual regeneration 
of the community shall follow. 

1 Isa. 32 141 -. 


Contact with the empire of the world widened Isaiah's 
horizon, and he draws the nations into his picture of the final 
condition of things : " Many nations shall go and say, Corne 
ye, and let us go up to the house of the God of Jacob ; and 
He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His 
paths." l In this connection there are two very remarkable 
chapters (chaps. 18 and 19), the one referring to Ethiopia, the 
most distant land, and the other to Egypt : " In that day 
there shall be brought a present (i.e. a token of homage to 
Jehovah) from a people tall and smooth, a people terrible 
from their beginning and hitherto ; from a people that 
meteth out and treadeth down, whose land the rivers 
divide i.e. Ethiopia to the place of the name of the 
Lord of hosts, to Mount Zion." More astonishing still 
is the prediction regarding Egypt, because it rises to the 
most perfect universalism, including in the salvation of the 
Lord Israel's mortal foe the Assyrian: "In that day there 
shall be an highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the 
Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into 
Assyria ; and the Egyptians shall worship Jehovah with the 
Assyrians. In that day shall Israel be a third with Egypt 
and with Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth ; for 
the Lord of hosts shall bless them, saying, Blessed be Egypt 
My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel 
Mine inheritance." 2 

This is so extraordinary as to seem to many incredible 
from Isaiah. Perhaps we should date the passage after the 
great disaster to Sennacherib's army and the retreat of the 
Assyrian. Judah enjoyed peace, the aged prophet's battles 
were all fought and won. Never had Jehovah been so 
exalted in righteousness as after that stroke which He 
inflicted on the Assyrian ; and amidst a world at peace the 
prophet was free to follow out the ideals that had always 
floated before his mind ; for, in truth, though he does pre- 

1 Isa. 2 1 ' 4 . 2 Isa. 19 23ff -. 


diet, he less predicts than dreams great moral dreams which 
embrace the world. Finally, in this connection, it is to be 
noticed that the nations are brought into relationship with 
the Messianic king : " It shall come to pass in that day, 
that the root of Jesse, which standeth for a signal to the 
peoples, unto him shall the nations seek." l The old 
promise made to Abraham, " In thee shall all the families 
of the earth be blessed," is fulfilled. 

In regard to Israel itself, of course, it is part of Isaiah's 
faith, first, that the two kingdoms shall be reunited under 
the Davidic king : " Ephraim shall not envy Judah, nor 
Judah envy Ephraim " ; secondly, that all the members of 
the people scattered among all nations shall be restored: 
" The Lord will stretch out His hand a second time to 
recover His people that shall be left out of Assyria and 
all the countries of the earth " ; thirdly, that under the 
Messianic king there will be a condition of peace. This 
does not need to be dwelt upon. But this peace, so 
profound among men, descends even to the lower creation. 
Man rises to his place of supremacy, and the little child, 
the weakest thing among men, leads the most savage, 
and plays with the most deadly, of the creatures. Even the 
enmities in the lower world itself cease, " the wolf and the 
lamb lie down together." This may be poetry, but it is pro- 
foundly moral poetry. The violence of creature to creature 
could not but jar upon the sensibility of this idealist, and 
blur the picture of perfect peace which he beholds, " when 
the earth is filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the 
waters cover the sea " ; and He removes it. Still, we should 
do the moral idealist and poet an injustice if we sought to 
make him responsible here for historical prediction. 

There is one thing which surprises us in all these early 
prophets. In their teaching regarding the redemption or 
restitution of the people, there is not one word uttered in 

1 Isa. II 10 . 


regard to what we call atonement. Their line of thought is 
uniformly this: The sins of the people must bring great 
judgments upon them, exile and desolation of the land. 
These judgments, however, are not mere penal inflictions, 
they are disciplinary and educative. They have a double 
object in view, first, to teach the people the true nature of 
Jehovah, His absolutely moral being and rule : Jehovah of 
hosts shall be exalted in righteousness, and the holy God 
sanctified through judgment ; l and, secondly, which is but 
the other side of this, to bring the people to the conscious- 
ness of their sins. When these ends are effected, then the 
forgiveness of Jehovah is bestowed, with no mediation of 
sacrifice or other expiation. 

It may be that the idea was present that the chastise- 
ments of the people were in a sense satisfaction for their 
guilt; but it is doubtful if this idea be anywhere clearly 
expressed. It is rather that the forgiveness of God is 
ready, whenever the needful conditions are present. In the 
second half of Isaiah there appears for the first time some- 
thing different. But in the early prophets the Restoration 
is not mediated. It is an act of Jehovah's forgiving mercy. 
The first of the two conditions is, that Jehovah's nature 
be displayed, and homage done to it by the people ; and the 
second, which differs little from the first, is, that the people 
acknowledge their sin and repent. In two respects, however, 
the prophet Isaiah mediates the restoration, first, by his 
teaching regarding the remnant, this keeps up the con- 
tinuity on the side of the people ; and, second, by his teach- 
ing regarding the spirit, which appears as the means 
through which Jehovah works upon the people ; though this 
last conception awaits fuller development in later prophets. 

Everywhere there appears in the prophecies the idea of 
the remnant which blossoms out into a new nation. Thus 
the continuity of the people is not absolutely broken. But 

1 Isa. 5 16 . 



the point of interest is the principle which preserves this 
remnant. Isaiah, as we have seen, gathered around him 
a band of faithful disciples, and by their means practically 
founded a new community. This was the preserving and 
mediating principle on the side of men. On the side of 
God, besides His strange work of chastisement, there was the 
power exercised by the spirit that was to be poured out from 
on high, a spirit that should rest on king and people alike. 

Such, then, is a sketch of the way in which prophetic 
thought regarding the Davidic origin of the perfect king of 
the kingdom of God developed through many generations of 
prophecy. In his dying words, David himself used the figure 
of heat and light after rain producing luxuriant vegetation, 
to represent the fostering of his race by God till there should 
come out of it the Messiah, the just ruler among men ; 
and he used the expression, " Surely He will make it to 
sprout forth " (n^). And the root nov became technical to 
express this idea, and the term runs through all the prophets 
to express the branch out of Jesse's root. Isaiah says : " In 
that day shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and 
glorious " ; l Jeremiah : " In those days and at that time 
will I cause the branch of righteousness to grow up unto 
David, and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the 
land." 2 Zechariah similarly exclaims : " Hear now, Joshua 
the high priest, thou and thy fellows that sit before thee . . . 
for, behold, I will bring forth My servant the Branch." 3 

Thus, through prophet after prophet, the echo of David's 
words is heard, till they are taken up by the angel in the 
annunciation to Mary : " And behold thou shalt conceive, 
and bring forth a son ... He shall be great, and shall 
be called the Son of the Highest : and the Lord God shall 
give unto Him the throne of His father David : and He shall 
reign over the house of Jacob for ever ; and of His kingdom 
there shall be no end." 

1 Isa. 4 22 . 2 Jer. 33 15 . a Xecli. 3 s . 



THE second part of Isaiah, if the finest part of all the pro- 
phetical literature, is certainly also the most difficult, not in 
language, but in meaning. The smaller prophets are com- 
paratively easy to comprehend, just because they are small, 
and because they belong to a special historical condition of 
things. The latter part of Isaiah is very much more complex ; 
the conceptions of the prophet are broader and more general, 
and it is less easy to arrange them so as to obtain a clear 
conception of his whole scheme of thought. Added to this 
difficulty, there is another. The profound redemptive con- 
ceptions of the writer have been regarded as having received 
a definite historical fulfilment, and it is extremely difficult for 
the interpreter to avoid reading the book in the light of this 
fulfilment, and assuming that the prophet had in his own 
mind reference to it. 

Now, we are certainly right in assuming these two things 
first, that the features of the Servant of the Lord, as drawn 
by the prophet, have reappeared in Christ, and the prophet's 
statements have been realised, or more than realised, in Him ; 
and, secondly, that this is not a mere fact. More can be said 
than just this, that in fact the prophet's picture has been 
verified in the Messiah. There must be a connection between 
prophecy and fulfilment. " Known unto God are all His 
works from the beginning." The feeling of the apostles, that 
that which was said in the Old Testament had a future 
bearing, and looked forward to the things of Christ, was not 



without justification. The thoughts of the prophet regarding 
the meaning of the Servant's sufferings were given him at this 
early age with a view to their fulfilment in the Son of God, 
to prepare for it before it came, and to make it credible when 
it came, and in order, also, to help to the understanding 
of it. 

But while these two points are held, there may be much 
difference of opinion upon another point, namely, what 
subject had the prophet in his own view, when he spoke of 
the Servant of the Lord? Was it a future person, such as 
has historically appeared in the Messiah ? or was it a subject 
of another kind ? There are many things in the Old Testa- 
ment which have found their full verification only in Christ, 
which were certainly spoken by Old Testament writers 
originally of subjects different from Him. Now, at any rate, 
it is just this question, What subject had the prophet in his 
own mind ? that we, as historical interpreters of his prophecy, 
are under obligation to answer. The meaning of the pro- 
phecy is what the prophet in his day meant by it. We all 
admit that Scripture does not consist of words, but of 
thoughts expressed in words. Eevelation is not revelation 
until it has formed itself in thoughts in a human mind. 

However we may speak of inspiration, we must assume 
that the effect of it was,^?^, that certain thoughts arose in the 
prophet's mind ; and, secondly, that these thoughts were then 
expressed in suitable language. We are apt to fall into the 
idea that the prophet wrote words, without thoughts in his 
own mind having preceded them. How inveterate this way 
of thinking is, appears from the following language of so 
thoughtful a writer as Mr. Stanton in his Jewish and 
Christian Messiah : " It is evidently conceivable, and it is a 
view which none can consider derogatory to the inspiration 
of the prophets, that they may have been moved by the Spirit 
to utter language of which they themselves, not to say others 
of their time, could only very partially understand the signi- 


ficance." 1 Will any one, who reads the prophets with intelli- 
gence enough to feel in their writings the intense movements 
of mind which everywhere characterise them, be satisfied 
with hearing them described as persons who ' uttered 
language ' ? What the prophets on all occasions did was 
to express thoughts in language. These thoughts they were 
enabled to reach ; and, having reached them, they then ex- 
pressed them. It is quite conceivable that to us now their 
words may have a larger sense than they themselves expressed 
by them ; because, for one reason, to specify no more, the 
subjects of which they spoke such, for example, as the 
Church of God have now acquired a larger meaning. 

Thus, I think, it will appear that what we have to 
inquire into is the prophet's meaning, and nothing else ; 
because this was just the truth which God enabled him to 
reach, and the truth that was needful to be laid before the 
people of God in the prophet's day. In such an inquiry, 
therefore, we should, as much as possible, keep fulfilment 
from exercising any influence upon our investigation. We 
assume that the great prophetic thoughts will receive fulfil- 
ment fulfilment in history. But prophecy does not consist 
exclusively of thoughts. There is another element in 
prophecy, a relative element, besides the thoughts which 
have the character of universal. The prophets were practical 
teachers ; they were also profoundly realistic. Hence they 
never content themselves with giving out general conceptions ; 
they always throw their general conceptions into a concrete 

What they, in the main, speak about is redemption, 
the perfection of God's people ; but this perfection belongs 
to the time near at hand. They construct a new world, in 
which their conceptions are embodied, and of which their 
conceptions form the spiritual framework. But this new world 
is always their own world, the world of their own time pene- 

1 P. 96. 


trated and transfigured by their spiritual conceptions. Their 
construction was one for their own age : a broad, general 
conception, fitted to sustain the hearts of religious men of the 
time. It is a conception of redemption, and of the perfect 
condition of the kingdom of God, supposing this perfect 
condition to have supervened in the prophet's own day, and 
in the conditions of the world existing in his time. Now, 
for one thing, the Church of God was confined to the Jews 
in his day. Hence it is the restoration and perfect felicity 
of Israel, God's people, that fills the foreground of the picture. 

But fulfilment does not take place quite in conformity 
with the prophet's construction. He put all his great 
thoughts into the fabric, and saw them all verified in the 
new world at once. But the hand of history takes down the 
prophet's brilliant structure, and gives fulfilment to one 
thought at one time, and to another thought at a later time. 
The prophet's structure was a fabric representing the perfect 
end, and it may be that the end will reflect it truly ; but, 
historically, it goes into fulfilment, piece by piece. Just as 
an iceberg is formed in the Arctic seas, and as it could be 
formed nowhere else, and as it travels southwards gives up 
here one splendid wing or projection, and there another, to the 
surrounding ocean, so the great prophetic construction, formed 
in each prophet's conditions of life, as it moves down the sea 
of time, gives up to history one wing after another, until it 
is wholly absorbed, and goes into realisation. 

That the prophet's construction is one out of the materials 
of his own time, and that he places the realisation of it in 
his own time, is admitted by writers on prophecy. Delitzsch 
calls the peculiarity the human element in prophecy. One 
may question the wisdom of drawing a distinction between 
the divine and the human in Scripture. If we reflect upon 
it, it may seem to us that what Delitzsch calls the human 
was nothing but the divine in the form necessary for those 
times. Whatever we call it, it was absolutely necessary that 


the prophets should set before men's minds these general 
constructions of the perfect kingdom of God, and that they 
should, in their eager hope of their fulfilment, represent them 
as near at hand. Men's hearts could not otherwise have 
been sustained. To take an example, Isaiah, in chaps. 79, 
represents the great descendant of David, the child born and 
the son given, as about to appear immediately after the 
desolations of the Assyrian invasion. He eats milk and 
honey, the only food remaining in a laud reduced to a 
pastoral condition. The hope sustained men, and enabled 
them to live through the disasters about to fall on them. 
Would the people's hearts have been upheld, or their faith 
made strong, if the prophet had been himself told, and had in 
turn told his countrymen, that eight hundred years after their 
day the victorious Messiah would appear? Or would the people 
that dwelt in Jerusalem have been enabled to live in their 
day, and with their thoughts, if they had been plainly told 
that the Messiah's kingdom, when it did come, would be 
altogether spiritual, and the Holy City be no fitter place to 
worship the Father in than any other ? 

Eeligion must be drawn into our life : our hearts must 
be engaged, our hopes must be awakened, and, for the time, 
we must be nourished on narrower hopes, such as we are able 
in our condition to cherish, that, through the discipline of 
them, we may rise up to a larger hope. And just as Isaiah, 
in the Assyrian age, presented the hope of the future king of 
the house of David in such a form as to uphold faith in that 
day, it is possible that the later chapters may present the 
great conception of vicarious atonement in such a way as to 
comfort the people of God at that later time, not by repre- 
senting that atonement as a thing long future, but as some- 
thing actual in the history of the people of that time. A 
consideration of our own life now and of the life of the 
Church, and how at one period we live by hopes which at 
a later time we outlive, but which helped us to move into 


wider circles of life, a consideration of this will help us 
better to understand the Old Testament, and how it was 
that the great Christian truths were not presented at once 
in their perfect clearness to Old Testament believers, than 
anything else. In a word, if we would remember that the 
Old Testament revelation was given to enable the people 
of God, in their circumstances and with their thoughts, 
to live to God, this would be the readiest key to open its 

The object of these remarks is to impress the idea that 
no particular doctrine of the prophet can be properly under- 
stood without some comprehension of his scheme of thought 
as a whole. It can lead to no satisfactory result, for 
example, to fasten our attention on one or two isolated 
chapters, as the 42nd, the 49th, or even the 53rd, and 
deduce a meaning from them alone, while we neglect the 
other chapters or the general teaching of the prophet. It 
may well happen that what might seem to us the natural 
meaning of these chapters may be a meaning entirely 
excluded, when the general conceptions of the prophecy 
are taken into account. The defect of most commentaries 
is that they make no attempt to present the general scheme 
of the prophet's thoughts, but deal with individual verses, 
or at most with short passages. A full view of the prophet's 
teaching would follow something like the following outline: 

(1) The prophet's doctrine of Jehovah, the God of Israel. 
In all the prophets, the doctrine of God is the primary 
thing ; morals are but the reflection of religion. The people 
and their conduct are to be estimated from the point of 
view of that which Jehovah is, for His people must be 
like Himself. In this prophet, the doctrine of Jehovah 
might be called the source of all his other conceptions. 
The prophecy is little else than a development on all sides of 
his conception of Jehovah, God of Israel, who is God alone. 

(2) After the doctrine of Jehovah would come the doctrine 


of the people ; but perhaps this would better be treated in 
connection with the Servant of the Lord. 

And therefore the second heading would naturally be 
what I have called construction, in other words, the prophet's 
doctrine or conception of redemption. Now, this general divi- 
sion would embrace such points as these : ( 1 ) The prophet's 
general position in history the Exile, more particularly, 
shortly before Babylon was captured by Cyrus. In order to 
appreciate any writer's thoughts, we must know his position 
in history, and the great factors of life in his day. (2) His 
general scheme of construction this would embrace a survey 
of the great forces, moral and civil, of his age, Babylon the 
idolatrous kingdom, Cyrus the anointed of the Lord, Israel 
the Lord's servant ; in general, a survey of what, in that age 
and in that condition of the world, Israel being alone the 
people of the Lord, would be redemption ; what the prophet 
of that time would consider, and did consider, to be the 
redemption of the people of God. (3) Going somewhat 
more into particulars, the subject \ redemption the people 
of Israel would come to be considered. What was the 
prophet's conception of Israel ? of its meaning and its 
mission ? And here a certain peculiar tendency to idealise 
on the part of the prophet would require attention. There 
are three subjects whom he thus treats, all of which seem 
identical, namely, Jacob or Israel, Zion or Jerusalem, and 
the Servant of the Lord. These three personifications have 
all the same basis, namely, the people, although under some- 
what different aspects. (4) Then a more particular treat- 
ment of the subject of the Servant of the Lord would be 
required. In chap. 41 s the Servant of the Lord is unquestion- 
ably the people of Israel under certain conceptions. 

The only question which appears to me to be worth 
treating now is this : Does the prophet maintain this position 
throughout his prophecy ? Is the Servant of the Lord always 
the conception of the people, this conception elevated into 


an ideal Being ? or is the Servant of the Lord an actual 
future person ? If a person at all, he must be future, and 
his sufferings future. But here the question will arise : Do 
the prophet's general conceptions leave any room or place 
for sufferings in the future ? Is not his horizon bounded 
by the restoration from exile, now in his day imminent ? 
Is not this restoration, as he conceives it, final, and the 
initiation of Israel's perfect redemption and felicity ? If that 
be so, there is manifestly no room, according to his method of 
conception, for sufferings after the restoration. The Servant 
has a great work after the restoration, namely, to be the 
light of the Gentiles. And his manner of working is described 
in chap. 42 2 ~ 4 : " He shall not cry, nor lift up his voice. The 
bruised reed he shall not break : he will bring forth judgment 
in truth ; and the countries shall wait on his teaching." But 
for suffering there is no place. 

The sufferings of the Servant must therefore lie either 
in the present or in the past of the prophet, or in both. 
But on any of the suppositions the Servant cannot be an 
individual. This is a point, therefore, deserving of considera- 
tion. But altogether apart from this question, who the 
Servant himself is, there are the very profound conceptions 
expressed by the prophet in connection with him, namely, 
his sufferings in bearing the sins of his people, and their 
restoration through these sufferings, " by whose stripes we 
have been healed." Then, lastly, there is the prophet's con- 
ception of the final condition of the world ; the restoration 
of Israel, and their place in the midst of the heathen; and 
the relation of the heathen world to the people of God. 

Now, it may be taken for granted that the scene of 
this series of prophecies as a whole is the Babylonian 
Exile. The prophet may have lived during this period, 
or he may have been transported in spirit into it, as 
some hold, though living at a previous period ; but on 
every hand it is admitted that the general movements of 


his great prophecy take place here ; and, as I have already 
stated in chap. 15, niy personal conviction is that such 
was the prophet's actual position. The opening note of 
the prophecy is comfort to a people who had been long 
enduring a hard warfare : " Comfort ye, comfort ye my 
people. Speak ye to the heart of Jerusalem, and cry unto 
her that her warfare is fulfilled, that her iniquity is 
pardoned." The prophecy is little else than a series of 
homilies of comfort preached to an oppressed and sinful 
people, the people of God, on God's attributes as God and 
Jehovah, and illustrated from the history of the people 
of God already past, and of which the whole burden is : 
" Your redemption draweth nigh." 

So many different things coincide in pointing to the Exile 
that it is really no longer subject to doubt. In the very 
exordium the company of heralds is represented as bringing 
good tidings to Jerusalem, and saying to the cities of Judah : 
" Behold your God ; for Jehovah returns to Zion, as of old, 
through the wilderness, leading home His people from their 
captivity in Babylon, as in former times from Egypt : Depart 
ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence (Babylon). ... Ye shall 
not go out in haste, neither shall ye go by flight: for the 
Lord will go before you ; and the God of Israel will be your 
rereward." l And elsewhere it is said : " Jehovah confirmeth 
the word of His servant, and saith to Jerusalem, Thou shalt 
be inhabited ; and to the cities of Judah, Ye shall be rebuilt : 
that saith of Cyrus, He is My servant, and shall perform 
all My pleasure : even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be 
rebuilt ; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid." 2 
Passages to the same effect are: 45 13 49 s 51 3 52 9 57 14 58 12 
62 4 64 10 . 

And with this coincides the frequent reference to the 
condition of the exiles in passing through the wilderness; 
for example : " The poor and needy seek water, and there 

1 Isa. 52 12 . 2 Isa. 44 26ff -. 



is none. ... I will make the wilderness a pool of water, 
and the deserts springs of water." 1 For the new exodus 
shall be greatly more glorious than the former one : " Thus 
saith the Lord, that maketh a way in the sea . . . remember 
ye not the former things. Behold, I will do a new thing : I 
will give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, 
to give drink to My people, Mine elect." 2 " Go ye forth of 
Babylon, flee ye from the Chaldeans, with a voice of singing 
declare ye to the end of the earth ; say ye, The Lord hath 
redeemed His servant Jacob. And they thirsted not when 
He led them through the desert . . . He clave the rock, and 
the waters gushed out." 3 

Now, it would be altogether out of place to argue that 
these passages are largely hyperbolical and not capable of 
being realised actually, and are therefore to be interpreted 
spiritually. No doubt it would do entire injustice to this 
prophet, if we imagined him a mere enthusiastic patriot, 
and failed to find the spiritual truths of redemption in his 
prophecies. But that we are on firm historical ground in 
his prophecies, and not among brilliant religious metaphors, 
is evident enough from such passages as this : " I have raised 
him (Cyrus) up in righteousness, and I will direct all his 
ways : he shall rebuild My city, and he shall let go My 
captives, saith the Lord of hosts." 4 

But perhaps something more particular can be said than 
that the general scene of the prophecies is the Exile. The 
place which the prophet occupies is before the fall of 
Babylon, but after the victorious career of Cyrus had com- 
menced. There are some writers who imagine they can 
connect the various parts of the book with distinct steps 
in Cyrus's career of victory ; but few have seen anything 
solid or trustworthy in such combinations. Seinecke, in 
his work on these chapters under the title, The Evangelist 
of the Old Testament, endeavours to show that the whole 

1 Isa. 41 17f -. 2 Isa. 43 16 ' 20 . 3 Isa. 48 20 -. 4 Isa. 45 13 . 


prophecy presupposes the issue of the edict of Cyrus in 
536 permitting the Jews to return home; a view which 
cannot be maintained without very artificial treatment of 
many passages relating to Cyrus, e.g. : " I will go before thee, 
and will make rough places plain : the gates of brass I will 
break, and cut in sunder the bars of iron." l 

The career of Cyrus is, however, represented as attracting 
the eyes of the world : " Who raised up from the east him 
whom righteousness calleth to follow it ? " 2 His progress, 
therefore, had already been one of victory ; the prophet can 
appeal to it, and makes it an argument in favour of the 
sole Deity of Jehovah : " I have raised up one from the 
north, and he is come : from the rising of the sun one who 
shall call upon My name ; and he cometh upon satraps as 
upon mortar, and as the potter treadeth clay." 3 But though 
already entered upon a victorious career, and though the 
nations are panic-stricken at his prowess, " The isles saw it, 
and feared ; the ends of the earth trembled," 4 he has not 
yet overthrown Babylon. The prophet takes up his position 
before this event, which he predicts ; and he is thus, even 
if we suppose him a contemporary of Cyrus, still a prophet, 
even in the narrower sense of that word. 

It seems certain that most of these prophecies were 
written at a time anterior to the capture of Babylon. In 
chap. 43 24 it is said: "Thus saith the Lord, your Eedeemer ; 
For your sakes I send (proph. perf.) to Babylon, and will 
bring them all down as fugitives, in the ships of their cry." 
Chap. 47, which is an ode of triumph over the downfall 
of Babylon, might seem composed after that event : " Come 
down, sit in the dust, virgin daughter of Babylon ; take the 
mill and grind corn, pass over the rivers a captive " ; but 
that the ode is prophetic, sung in anticipation of the fall of 
the city, appears plain enough from vv. 8 - 9 : " Thou hast said, 
I shall never sit as a widow, nor know bereavement of 

1 Isa. 45 2 . 2 Isa. 41 2 . 3 Ka. 41 25 . 4 Isa. 41 5 . 


children ; therefore these two things shall come upon thee 
in one day, bereavement and widowhood." And though the 
strong remonstrance with Israel in chap. 48 again assumes 
the fall of the city, it is merely in anticipation, as v. u shows : 
" He whom Jehovah loveth shall perform his pleasure on 
Babylon, and his arm shall be upon the Chaldeans." 

Ewald, followed by many other scholars, makes a great 
break at the end of chap. 48, and considers that in the 
meantime Babylon had fallen, and that the following chapters 
were composed really after this event, remarking that from 
chap. 49 onwards we hear no more of Cyrus or of Babylon. 
There is this amount of truth in the remark that the name 
Babylon is not again mentioned, but there is frequent allusion 
to it ; and it appears doubtful if the situation of the prophet 
has undergone any change. In chap. 49 24 we read: "Shall 
the prey be taken from the mighty ? shall the captive of the 
oppressor escape ? " i.e. the captive of the Babylonian. " Thus 
saith the Lord, I will make thy oppressors to eat their own 
flesh, and drink their own blood " ; apparently, therefore, the 
blow had not yet fallen on Babylon. Again, in chap. 52 4 : 
" Thus saith the Lord, My people went down to Egypt to 
sojourn there ; and Assyria oppressed them without cause : 
and now what do I here (i.e. in Babylon), saith Jehovah, 
that My people are taken away for nought ? they that rule 
over them do shout (as taskmasters), and My name continu- 
ally all the day is blasphemed." This seems to imply that 
the power of Babylon had not yet been broken. And in 
the same chapter, alluding to the redemption from Babylon, 
the prophet exclaims : " Away, away, go ye out thence, touch 
no unclean thing." 

It is doubtful, indeed, if the point of view of the prophet 
alters throughout the whole twenty-seven chapters. Some 
scholars consider that the last four chapters must have been 
composed after the return. This is quite possible in itself, 
even though the unity of authorship be affirmed. In the 


earlier prophecies the prophet's position seems in Babylon 
among the exiles. He may have returned with them, or 
conceived their return, and spoken some words from that 
point of view. The evidence is not very striking or con- 
clusive on either side. But up to the end of chap. 62 his 
position appears to be unchanged. In 55 12 we read: "For 
with joy shall ye go forth, and be led forth with peace : the 
mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into 
singing,"- a passage which shows that the new exodus was 
only as yet anticipated. And in chap. 62 10 it is still no 
more than anticipated : " Go through, go through the gates ; 
prepare ye the way of the people ; cast up the highway ; 
gather out the stones ; lift up a standard for the peoples. 
Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh. 
And they shall call them, The holy people, The redeemed of 
the Lord : and thou shalt be called, Sought unto, A city not 

Now, it is of the utmost importance, when we seek to 
understand the prophecy, and the conceptions of the prophet, 
to keep this standing-point of his clearly before our minds. 
He maintains the same position throughout his whole 
prophecy. He stands immediately before the downfall of 
Babylon at the hand of Cyrus, of which he is perfectly 
assured. He is equally assured that on the fall of the 
Babylonian Empire his captive countrymen will be set free, 
the restoration is at hand. " He (Cyrus) shall rebuild My 
city, and let go My captives, not for price nor reward, saith 
the Lord of hosts." l But this restoration, as he conceives 
it, is final. The historical Eestoration that actually took 
place in no way accords with his idea, which is that of a 
complete ingathering" of all the scattered fragments of the 
people of the Lord : " I will say to the north, Give up ; 
and to the south, Keep not back: bring My sons from 
far, and My daughters from the ends of the earth ; every 

1 Isa. 45 13 . 


one that is called by My name " (i.e. every one of the 
people of Jehovah). 1 And again: " I will make all My 
mountains a way, and My highways shall be lifted up. 
Behold, these shall come from far : and, lo, these from the 
north and from the west ; and these from the land of Sinim. 
Sing, heavens ; and be joyful, earth : for the Lord hath 
comforted His people, and will have compassion upon His 
afflicted." 2 

The restoration is of all Israel, and it is final; for all 
nature breaks out into singing over it, as the consumma- 
tion of redemption. But, of course, in the prophet's con- 
ception, this is not another restoration from that about to 
be effected by Cyrus. It is one restoration, but this is how 
the prophet conceives of it. Thus we perceive that the 
prophet, according to his way of looking at things, stands 
at the end of the history of Israel. There is really now 
only one step more to be taken the Eestoration : " Israel's 
warfare is over, and her sin pardoned ; the Lord shall lead 
His people home through the wilderness, and His glory shall 
be revealed to all flesh ; and He shall feed His flock like a 
shepherd for ever." The prophet conceives himself to be 
standing before a restoration which is final and universal, 
a point of momentous consequence in regard to the whole 
interpretation of the book. If the prophet conceives himself 
as standing before a restoration which is final and universal, 
that is, if he conceives the restoration by Cyrus, which he 
is assured will follow the overthrow of Babylon, as the 
redemption, in full, of Israel, according to the words, " Her 
warfare is over, her iniquity is pardoned,"- -then this restora- 
tion or redemption is really the only thing which he 
predicts ; it is, in truth, the only event in the history of 
Israel now to take place. He stands, in fact, before the one 
final step of Israel's history ; all the rest of its history lies 
behind him. 

1 Isa. 43'. " Isa. 49 11 ' 13 . 


His book, therefore, is not in the main an unrolling 
of the future, it is a retrospect, it is a reading of the 
meaning of the history of God's people, their sufferings and 
their patience and testimony. Consequently, the Servant 
of the Lord and his sufferings are not, in the view of the 
prophet, future; to him they are past and present. And, 
undeniably, it will follow from this that the Servant cannot 
be an individual person, and his sufferings cannot appear to 
the prophet to be future. Because really the only thing 
future, according to his conception from the position which 
he occupies, is the restoration, or final redemption and de- 
liverance : with that deliverance the final felicity of Israel 
begins, and consequently sufferings after this restoration are 
entirely excluded. 

Now, we are very liable to allow ourselves in reading the 
prophets to be influenced by history, and to impose an 
interpretation on a prophet's book which will make it a 
great prediction of history, or which will find, in historical 
events lying between the prophet and our day, a progressive 
fulfilment of his words. But the prophets did not write 
history beforehand, though, no doubt, their conceptions find 
fulfilment in history. Events do not always happen in the 
order in which they set their conceptions ; at least very 
great spaces of time have been intercalated between occur- 
rences which they represent as close upon one another. It 
is safest, therefore, to discard history, for history is as yet 
but a fragment ; the prophet's conceptions reach out to the 
end of time, and here history fails us. It is also safest 
not to allow ourselves to be distracted by fulfilment, for the 
same is true of this ; it is as yet imperfect, and the unequal 
lights which it casts upon the prophet's page disturb the 
eye. The conceptions of a prophet, and the way in which 
he connects them, may be learned from his book as from 
any other book ; and there is nothing to hinder us from 
understanding him. 


Now, we have learned enough in our study of Old Testa- 
ment prophecy to know that though it speaks of the end 
of all things, though every prophet does this, yet to every 
one of them the horizon was near. The evolution that 
should issue in the end the revelation of the glory of 
Jehovah and the peace of His people was a moral evolu- 
tion ; and a single step or two led to the final issue. Thus, 
in the earlier chapters of Isaiah, the child born and the son 
given appears in the condition of desolation occasioned by 
the Assyrian invasion. Every prophet brings up the end in 
connection with the great movements of his own day and 
immediately on the back of them. And so in this second 
half of Isaiah, that final issue, which in the earlier part of 
Isaiah follows on the great Assyrian empire, follows on the 
downfall of the Babylonian, just as in Daniel again it follows 
on the overthrow of the Greek empire. The horizon of 
Deutero-Isaiah is bounded by the restoration of Israel from 
exile. As events immediately following this, he describes 
the perfect condition of the people of God, and the evangelis- 
ing of the world. This must be acknowledged to be the 
main conception, or vision, of the prophet. 

If, however, we read his words in the light of history, and 
suppose that his mode of representation and his disposition of 
events will be strictly historical, we are very apt to suppose 
that the order of his book will be something like this : First, a 
prediction of the restoration of Israel from captivity in Babylon, 
such as we learn from history actually occurred; second, a 
prophecy of the redemption of Israel from sin through the 
sufferings of the righteous Servant at a time subsequent to 
the restoration from captivity, a redemption which we know 
was effected in the death of Christ; and, lastly, some glimpses 
of the final glory of the people of God. This order would be 
that of history. But such is not the order of the prophet's 
book ; nor is it anything like a fair description of it. For, 
in the first place, the restoration from Babylon, which took 


place historically, was in no sense such a restoration as 
the prophet predicted, which was a restoration of all the 
scattered fragments of Israel in every land. Second, the 
restoration he predicted does not precede, but follows the 
atonement of Israel's sin through the sufferings of the Servant ; 
for this atonement is just what makes the restoration possible 
and is the ground of it, the punishment of Israel, which 
includes the sufferings of the Servant, terminating with the 
termination of the Captivity. 

This is a point of extreme importance. In such com- 
mentaries as those of Cheyne and others, the question, What 
is the moral explanation of the restoration from captivity ? 
is never raised. It is treated as a thing that does not need 
to have any account given of it, or any cause assigned to it. 
But our interpretation of prophecy has, I hope, already made 
it clear that, to the prophets, there are no such things as 
mere events. All events are embodiments and illustrations 
or exhibitions of moral principles ; and the restoration from 
captivity must be so also. That which led to the Exile was 
the sin of Israel, the Exile was the punishment of Israel's 
sin. And before Israel can be restored from captivity her 
sin must be forgiven. And forgiveness is based on the work 
of the Servant, which consequently must precede the restora- 

According to the prophet's view, therefore, the sufferings of 
the Servant of the Lord lie on the prophet's side of the restora- 
tion, not on our side of it. In truth, as Delitzsch rightly 
says, since the universal salvation breaks forth immediately 
on the restoration from captivity, which the prophet felt 
to be close at hand through Cyrus, there is, after this, no 
room for suffering. The state of the people of God is that of 
perfect peace. It is the state described in chap. 60 : "Arise, 
shine ; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is 
risen upon thee . . . and the Gentiles shall come to thy 
light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising." No events 


transpire after this. The Lord is present among His people ; 
the place of His feet is glorious. His people are all righteous, 
and shall inherit the earth for ever. It is, therefore, not 
wise or reasonable to look for any harmony between the 
prophet's construction and history, so far as it has yet gone. 
What we find is conceptions, of which many have been, and 
others may yet be, fulfilled in history. The prophet paints 
a Christian picture, but he sets it in an Old Testament frame ; 
though the frame too narrow for the picture, as it seems to 
us is of exquisite beauty, and the work of a most skilful, 
religious hand. 

We ought not, I maintain, to look for any great develop- 
ment or progress in the prophecy, much less cut it into 
sections either of nine or any other number of chapters. It 
is a composition in which certain conceptions appear through- 
out, one theme which has many variations executed upon it. 
This only may be held, that in the chapters from the 49th 
onward the prophet conceives more profoundly than before 
the moral condition of Israel, and sets more clearly before 
himself and the people the problem of sin, and the means 
whereby it is atoned, and the restoration of the people made 
possible thereby. Yet if we look at the prophet's position, 
or, at least, at the situation where he conceived himself to be, 
just before Israel's final restoration, now imminent, for 
her warfare is accomplished and her iniquity paid off, we 
must acknowledge that the sufferings of the Servant lie 
behind him. In truth, the whole of Israel's history lies 
behind him, and nothing lies before him but her restoration 
to, and final felicity in, the presence of her God. 

Israel's history, with all its meaning through the long ages, 
her sufferings and afflictions, " often have they afflicted me 
from my youth, may Israel say," the contempt endured from 
the nations, the abasement, the sin, and yet the moral glory 
never extinguished, as it could not be among the people of 
the Lord, the faith, the heroism, the light from God, all 


this lies behind the prophet and under his eye. And these 
profound chapters 49, 52-53, and the like give us his 
reading of the meaning of this history. Those conceptions of 
sin of sin borne and of sin atoned, paid off by being borne 
are not ideas suggested by Israel's history. They are ideas 
taught by its history ; they are ideas drawn from its history ; 
they are the moral interpretation, the religious philosophy of 
its history. Whether we regard them as predictions of things 
to come, or generalisations from a history conceived as past, 
is of extremely little consequence. The history of Israel 
teaches them. And the prophet takes his position at the 
end of this history, at a point immediately preceding Israel's 
restoration and final felicity, when the whole field of its 
history, with its profound moral meaning, lies open to his 
gaze, but behind him, a thing transacted and past. 

Now, the theme of Deutero-Isaiah is the universal king- 
dom of the one universal God Jehovah, God of Israel, a 
kingdom whose coming is imminent. Unquestionably, his 
horizon is bounded by the restoration from exile. Between the 
prophet and that event there are distinct occurrences, great 
steps towards the event ; after it, no occurrences take place. 
The restoration is the initiation of the perfect kingdom of 
God : Jehovah feeds His flock like a shepherd : His glory is 
revealed, and all flesh see it together. Even the occurrences 
that lie between him and this event the prophet invests with 
an ideal grandeur ; but after this event he becomes wholly 
ideal. He operates with religious conceptions alone. Out 
of these he constructs the kingdom of God in its final form. 1 

The phenomena and forces which filled and made up the 
prophet's world are familiar to us. They were Jehovah, God 
alone, and the false gods ; the people of God in bondage to 
Babylon, the mighty world-empire, which was but an incar- 
nation of its own idolatry ; the irresistible career of Cyrus, 
and the universal prostration of the idol-worshipping nations 

1 Isa. 60-62. 


before him. These are the forces out of whose conflict the 
universal kingdom of the Lord must arise. To many an eye 
the world might have seemed a chaos ; and it did fill many 
of the prophet's contemporaries with despair. They shared 
in the alarm of the other nations at the advance of Cyrus, 
fearing he might but forge heavier chains for them than those 
that now bound them ; and the Lord has to still their fears : 
" But thou, Israel, My servant, seed of Abraham My friend, 
fear not ; for I am with thee : be not dismayed ; for I am thy 
God : I have chosen thee, and not cast thee off." l In the 
events transpiring around them, they could perceive no trace 
of the presence of their God ; and to none of them did the 
arm of the Lord make itself apparent. 2 Querulousness and 
the captiousness of despair had taken possession of them ; 
and the Lord had to reprove them : " Woe to him that 
striveth with his Maker ! Shall the clay say to Him that 
fashioneth it, What makest Thou ? " 3 They were wholly 
downcast and paralysed : " Why, when I am come, is there 
no man ? When I call, is there none that answereth ? " 4 
Their God had forsaken them, and they trembled before the 
fury of the oppressor. 5 

But though to many minds in Israel all might appear in 
confusion, to no prophet of the Lord could the world ever 
appear confusion. It was not confusion, though it might 
present a movement hard to see into. It was a divine 
drama that was being played, complicated and extended ; and 
only a prophet of the Lord could foresee how it would develop 
itself. He could foresee, because to his mind the principal, 
or rather the only, actor in the drama was Jehovah Himself. 
And his foresight of it is little else than his conception of 
Jehovah, of what He is and what His purposes are, flung 
into the wrestling mass of principles and forces which he 
perceived around him. The conception of Jehovah as the 

1 Isa. 41 8 . 2 Isa. 53 1 . * Isa. 45 9 . 

Isa. 51 a . 6 Isa. 51 13 . 


First and the Last whose purpose is to plant a new heaven 
and found a new earth, and say unto Zion, Thou art My 
people turns the confusion into order. Under the prophet's 
eye there begins to move, and there proceeds, step by step, 
the evolution which ushers in the universal kingdom of the 
Lord. This evolution has two sides, an outer and an inner ; 
but the power moving and operating in both is Jehovah, the 
God of Israel. In the outer movement Jehovah's instrument is 
Cyrus ; in the inner movement it is the Servant of the Lord. 

To take the outer evolution first : This Cyrus, who was 
spreading consternation among the heathen, treading down 
kings, and making their swords like dust, 1 and exciting terror 
even in the breasts of the captives, was Jehovah's agent, 
whom He had raised up and called from the East, and who 
had come, obedient to His bidding. 2 Jehovah's raising up of 
Cyrus was not a mere display of power, or an act of ven- 
geance, but a great operation within the sphere of His purpose 
of salvation. " I have raised him up in righteousness ; he 
shall rebuild My city, and he shall let go My captives." 3 
The prophet does not go beyond other prophets, when he 
expresses the conception that Cyrus was Jehovah's instru- 
ment, whom He made use of for effecting His purposes with 
His people ; for, in the earlier chapters of Isaiah, the Assyrian 
is the rod of Jehovah's anger, a passive instrument in His 
hands ; so passive that, when he presumed to have thoughts 
and purposes of his own, he was behaving as madly and 
monstrously as if the staff should lift itself up as if it were 
not wood. 4 And in Jeremiah the Lord speaks of the king 
of Babylon as ' Nebuchadnezzar My servant.' 

But in two particulars this prophet goes beyond others : 
first, in the scope of the task which he assigns to Cyrus, and 
in the constructive character of this task ; for his mission is 
twofold, one part of it being to crush the heathen world- 
power, and thereby abolish idolatry and open the way for the 

1 Isa. 41 2 . 2 Isa. 41=- - 3 . 3 Isa. 44 13 . 4 Isa. 10 15 . 


expansion of 'judgment' to the Gentiles; and the other 
being to set free the Lord's captives and build anew His 
temple, that the law might go forth from Zion and the word 
of the Lord from Jerusalem : and, second, in the close intimacy 
with Jehovah Himself into which he brings the Persian 
hero, while the Assyrian and the Babylonian were mere 
instruments in Jehovah's hand, which He flung away, or 
broke in pieces like a rod, when His purpose with them was 
served. Cyrus is no mere instrument, he is the Lord's 
' anointed ' or Messiah, whose right hand He holds, 1 whom 
He loveth, 2 whom He goes before and prospers, whom He 
called by name when he did not know Him, and who shall 
even call upon His name. 3 

These last words suggest one of the most interesting 
questions which these prophecies raise, the question, namely, 
what thoughts the prophet had of the religious position of 
Cyrus, what hopes he entertained of him, and whether he 
anticipated that the conqueror would realise that it was the 
God of Israel who was crowning his arms with victory, and 
that he might be won over to the religion of Jehovah. No 
thought was too lofty or too wide for the prophet in the 
passion of enthusiasm which the vision of a restored nation 
and a regenerated world raised within him. And, obviously, 
if such a thought occurred to him, as it well might, seeing 
that the Persians were no worshippers of images, it would 
facilitate, to his mind, the solution of the great problem 
which attracted his thoughts, how the nations could be gained 
over to the true faith, and the kingdoms of the nations 
become the kingdoms of the Lord. Such a great work, 
however, could not be accomplished by Cyrus, for this was 
the task assigned to another, who alone could accomplish it, 
the Servant of the Lord, who would bring forth judgment to 
the Gentiles. That work would be effected, not by conquest 
or strife, but by methods very different, by the unwearied 

1 Isa. 45 1 . " Isa. 4S 14 . 3 Isa. 41 25 . 


gentleness and sympathy of one " who would not cry nor lift 
up His voice, and who would not break the bruised reed nor 
quench the smoking flax." Yet how mighty an impulse the 
adhesion of Cyrus might give to such a work, whether by his 
example or his influence ! 

In this way, what may be called the external frame of 
the prophet's vision of the universal kingdom of the Lord 
was set up : " The idolatrous empire was laid low, the idols 
demonstrated to be vanity " ; 1 " those that served graven 
images were turned back and put to shame " ; 2 " the ran- 
somed of the Lord restored to Zion with everlasting joy upon 
their heads"; 3 "and all Israel, every one on whom Jehovah's 
name was called as His people, saved with an everlasting 
salvation." 4 Such language is proof enough how ill-suited 
such a phrase as ' external frame ' is to express the prophet's 
conception. The work of Cyrus was, in truth, the work of 
Jehovah ; its whole meaning to the prophet lay in its being 
a religious work, a great stride taken by the kingdom of the 
Lord towards its full victory over all that was evil and false. 
Nothing could demonstrate how entirely the religious idea of 
it dominated the prophet's mind so much as his eagerness to 
bring Cyrus, the great agent who was accomplishing it, 
himself into true relations with Jehovah, the Eedeemer of 
Israel, and God over all. 

Now, it is true that this more external process is that 
with which the first nine chapters of the prophecy are 
specially occupied. But this external restoration of Israel 
reposes on the internal redemption and atonement of her sins, 
which is what makes it possible ; and the prophet uniformly 
couples the two together. For example : " Eemember these, 
Jacob and Israel ; for thou art My servant : I have formed 
thee ; thou art My servant : I have blotted out, as a thick 
cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins " ; 5 and 

i Isa. 41- 9 . 2 Isa. 42". 3 Isa. 51". 

4 Isa. 45 17 . 6 Isa. 44 21ff -. 


then follows the jubilation of nature over Israel's salvation, 
a jubilation that always follows her final salvation : " Sing, 
ye heavens ; for the Lord hath done it : shout, ye lower 
parts of the earth ; for the Lord hath redeemed Jacob and 
glorified Himself in Israel." The same theme is handled in 
chaps. 40-48 as in the succeeding chapters, and it is handled 
in its full extent and breadth, embracing the complete re- 
demption of Israel, both external and inward ; but in chaps. 
40-48 it is chiefly the external side that is dwelt upon; in 
chaps. 49-53 it is the more profound internal process, the 
redemption from sin. But this latter is prior to the other, 
and explains it : " Cry unto her that her warfare is over, 
that her iniquity is pardoned." 

Such, then, is the internal side of the evolution needful 
to realise the universal kingdom of the Lord. The prophet's 
idea is complete : he has comprehended the problem in all 
its details. The work of Cyrus in the world only over- 
throws heathenism, and externally discredits and puts to 
shame the idols and the idolaters. This is but a negative 
effect. The nations are not thereby enlightened in the 
knowledge of the true God and His judgment. It is the 
mission of the Servant of the Lord to bring forth judgment to 
the Gentiles, and the isles shall wait for his law. Not to raise 
the question of the Servant here, whether he be Israel or no, 
when the prophet in chaps. 42 and 49 predicts that the 
Servant shall be the light of the Gentiles, and then in chap. 
60, speaking of Israel restored, says : " Arise, shine ; for thy 
light is come . . . and the Gentiles shall come to thy light." 
This shows that, at any rate, the light comes to the Gentiles 
only after Israel is redeemed and restored, and through 
Israel restored. Any direct missionary enterprises of 
individuals, however exalted, could not occur to the prophet. 
Like all prophets of the Old Testament, he operates with 
nations and peoples. And if the nations are to receive light 
through Israel, it will be through Israel again as an imposing 


people before the world's eyes, when " the law goes forth from 
Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem." 

All this teaches clearly enough what the prophet has in 
view, when he speaks of the restoration of Israel. It is no 
mere return of a few, or even many, exiles from Babylon. 
It is the reconstruction of the people in its former integrity, 
and the realising in it of its ideal, as the bearer of God's 
revelation in the world. But this implies a great internal 
revolution in Israel itself, a complete regeneration, and a 
resurrection to life and gathering together, member to 
member, of all the fragments of the nation scattered in every 
land ; a verification of the vision of another prophet, when he 
saw bone come to his bone, and the spirit enter into them, 
and they stood up a very great army. 1 It is in treating of 
this internal change in Israel itself that the prophet reveals 
his profoundest conceptions, conceptions hardly hinted at 
by other prophets, and bequeaths his richest legacy to the 
religious thought of mankind. The agent of the Lord in this 
work within Israel is the Servant of the Lord. This Servant 
of the Lord both bears the sins of the people, and turns 
their hearts unto their God, he becomes a covenant of the 

Now, in order to make quite plain the prophet's view of 
the future, I think it well, at the risk of some repetition, 
to formulate the following questions : Does the prophet 
conceive this restoration, about to be effected by Cyrus, as 
a perfect and final one, and the beginning of Israel's felicity, 
the peace of the people of God ? And, secondly, if so, 
how does the prophet come to take this large and ideal 
view of it, and give it this universal significance ? 

Now, I think it will be conceded that the brilliant 
conceptions of the prophet were not fulfilled in the actual 
historical Eestoration, which took place with the permission 
of Cyrus. That meagre restitution of the exiles, and that 

1 Ezek. 37. 


small beginning of a new Jerusalem and people, were very 
far from corresponding to the conceptions of the prophet. 
All interpreters agree on this ; and some of them say that 
the prophet's great idea will yet be fully realised, and that 
literally, when the scattered Jews shall all be finally restored 
to their own land, while others say the prophet's conception 
shall yet be verified in all that is essential to its meaning, 
namely, in the universal conversion of God's ancient people 
to the faith of Christ and to the covenant of their God. 
This difference of opinion is a difference of interpretation ; 
but all agree that the prophet's conception is that of a 
perfect and universal restoration of the people, which is the 
beginning of their entrance into the rest of God. Now, of 
course, the prophet does not speak of two restorations, one 
under Cyrus and another later ; to him there is one restora- 
tion, that of Cyrus ; but he gives it universal magnitude, 
making it complete and final. 

Now, there is a principle here, which, so to speak, 
compels the prophet to conceive things thus, or at all events 
helps to explain why he did thus conceive things ; why he 
did make the restoration universal, and, as we may say, of 
absolute meaning. Why was Israel, in exile, dispossessed 
of its inheritance, and scattered among all peoples ? The 
prophet informs us, when he asks, " Who gave Jacob for a 
spoil, and Israel to the robbers ? " 1 and then answers his 
own question thus : " Did not the Lord, He against whom 
we had sinned, and in whose ways they would not walk, 
neither were they obedient to His law ? Therefore are they 
a people robbed and spoiled, hid in prison houses ; they are 
for a prey, and none delivereth ; for a spoil, and none sayeth, 
Restore ! " The people were in exile because of their sins, of 
which the Exile was the chastisement. But if so, it is plain 
that they cannot be restored, until their sins are taken away. 
A restoration or relaxation of the penalty of sin sooner than 

1 Isa. 42- 4 . 


the forgiveness of the sin would have been inconceivable to 
the prophet. Hence he proclaims to Jerusalem : " Her war- 
fare is accomplished, her iniquity paid off, she has received 
of the Lord's hand double for all her sin." Therefore 
the satisfaction for the people's sins and their forgiveness 
precede their restoration, as the prophet conceives it. Now, 
it may be that history takes down the massive construction 
of the prophet, and gives fulfilment to it not as a whole at 
once, but in successive parts. That is certainly the case ; but 
it is his manner of thought that interests us meantime, and 
you will perceive that he moves among principles, and that 
his principles are of universal meaning, and receive, whenever 
he applies them, an absolute verification. 

Now, under the influence of history, we should expect, as 
has been already pointed out, that the prophecy would 
contain, first, a prediction of the restoration from captivity in 
Babylon ; secondly, a prophecy of the redemption of Israel 
from sin by the sufferings of the righteous servant at a time 
subsequent to the restoration from captivity ; and, lastly, 
some glimpses of the final glory of the people of God. But 
this would be a disintegration of the perfect whole which the 
prophet constructs. The restoration which he predicts does 
not precede, but follows, the atonement of Israel's sin through 
the sufferings of the Servant. For if we really consider his 
mode of representation, we shall find this relation holding 
throughout the book : forgiveness of sin and restoration are 
always connected, and the restoration follows the forgiveness. 
Thus in the very exordium we are told that her warfare is 
accomplished, her iniquity is pardoned. And in chap. 43 25 : 
" I am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine own 
sake." Again, in chap. 45 U : "The labour of Egypt, and the 
merchandise of Ethiopia, men of stature, shall come unto 
thee ; they shall make supplication unto thee, saying, Surely 
God is in thee." This is an account of the evangelising of 
the nations, and it is regarded as the immediate result of the 


victories of Cyrus. And, only to mention one passage which 
indicates that the restoration of Israel is final, and leads to 
the joy of all nations : " Go ye forth of Babylon . . . utter 
it to the ends of the earth ; say ye, The Lord hath redeemed 
His servant Jacob." Again, as in these earlier chapters 
the redemption from Babylon is based on the forgiveness 
of the people's sin, so in the middle chapters the forgiveness 
of sin through the sufferings of the servant issues in the 
restoration from Babylon. For example, in chap. 49 8f - it is 
said to the servant : " I will make thee a covenant of the 
people, to raise up the land, to make inherit the desolate 
heritages ; saying to them that are bound, Go forth ; to them 
that are in darkness, Show yourselves." 

In a word, what the prophet speaks about in these 
chapters is the final redemption of the people of God, and 
closely connected with that final redemption the salvation 
of all mankind ; but he places these great events in his own 
clay, and makes them the immediate result of the great occur- 
rences taking place in his own time. The events and forces 
with which he deals are just those of his own period, the 
collision between Cyrus and Babylon, the liberation of the 
captives, and their restoration to their own land ; but the 
prophet invests them all with a universal significance. He 
animates each of them with a moral or redemptive meaning, 
which makes them all stand out with a religious significance 
which is absolute. The whole situation has this universal 
meaning to him. The evils of the Captivity are the last 
evils of Israel for their sins ; they are the evils of sin ; 
deliverance from the Captivity is restoration from the con- 
dition of evil to the final state of blessedness ; and the 
forgiveness of sins which precedes this, which must precede it 
to make it possible, is full and everlasting. 

Within the empire of Babylon at this era, for Babylon 
was the world, all the moral forces that operate on the earth 
concentrate themselves ; there they come into collision, and 


there ensues the defeat of evil. It is a war of principles. 
The conflict of Israel, aided by Cyrus, with Babylon is the 
conflict of the religion of Jehovah with idolatry. With the 
downfall of Babylon, idolatry perishes. With the restoration 
of Israel, all the redemptive forces concentrated in Israel have 
free play, and begin to operate upon the world of mankind : 
she shines, and the Gentiles come to her light. Eestoration 
is Israel's final redemption, and the event bounds the pro- 
phet's horizon. There are strictly no more events subsequent 
to this. The condition of the world is that so beautifully 
described in chap. 60:" The gates of Jerusalem stand open 
continually, day and night, that the forces of the Gentiles 
may be brought in and their kings in procession. The place 
of the Lord's feet is glorious. His glory is revealed, and 
all flesh see it together. His people are all righteous, and 
shall inherit the earth for ever." 

It is acknowledged that this is the conception of the 
prophet, though the explanation of this way of conceiving 
things is not quite apparent. Delitzsch says : " It must not 
be forgotten that throughout these prophecies the breaking 
forth of salvation, not for Israel only but for all mankind, is 
regarded as bound up with the termination of the Captivity ; 
and from this basis of the restoration of the people who 
were in exile it is never separated." l And again he says : 
" But, as we shall never be tired of repeating, these prophecies 
regarding the appearance of the Servant of the Lord, the 
Saviour of Israel and the heathen, as connected with the 
Captivity; the punishment of Israel terminating according 
to the perspective foreshortening of prophetic vision with 
the termination of the Captivity, and the final glory of 
Israel and the final salvation of mankind beginning to dawn 
on the border of the Captivity," 2 i.e. coinciding with the 

1 Delitzsch's Isaiah, vol. ii. (T. & T. Clark's translation) p. 258. 

2 Op. cit., p. 276. 


Now the explanation of this mode of conception appears 
to be this : 

1. The prophets were all men of their own time. They 
stand amidst the circumstances of human life and the condi- 
tions of the world surrounding them in their own day. It is 
these circumstances and forces that fill their pages, and that 
have significance to them. 

2. But though the prophets are men of their own day 
and handle the forces of their own time, they are also men 
of the future. Though they live in their own time with an 
intensity of life to which nothing now is comparable, they do 
not lose themselves in the confusions of their day. They 
possess the key to the labyrinth in which other men hope- 
lessly wander. This key is Jehovah and His purposes of 
redemption. The prophets appear usually amidst very great 
movements in the world. Great events were passing around 
them. In these great events about them they felt the pre- 
sence of Jehovah. It was He that was animating all the 
events. And in these events, the noise of falling empires, 
the revolutions in society and the Church, they heard the 
sound of His goings. He was near, and His full presence 
would be speedily manifested. For if He was near, His 
redemption was near. The glory of the Lord would appear, 
and all flesh would see it together ; for His coming would 
be the redemption of His people and of the world. 

When we look back, from our point of view, at the events 
taking place around the prophet, we are apt to think less of 
them than he did. We speak of Israel as a type of God's 
people, and of Babylon as a type of the world and the like. 
But such ideas could not arise in the prophet's mind. Israel 
was the people of God, and Babylon was the world with its 
false worships, its cruel idolatries, and oppression of men. It 
is just because the things were of this magnitude to the 
prophet, that he speaks as he does. He moves, as we may 
say, among principles, true religion and false religion, Jehovah 


and idolatry with their opposition, the people of God with 
their sin and suffering and forgiveness. It is the principles 
in all these that fill the prophet's mind, and which cause him 
to give to the events that absolute religious magnitude which 
they assume in his prophecy. 



IN any discussion of any point in the last twenty-seven 
chapters of Isaiah, I take it for granted that the point of 
view of the whole series of prophecies is the Babylonian 
Exile. Also I take for granted that the great drama, which 
the prophecies exhibit, embraces at least the deliverance from 
Babylon, however much more, and that the relations of the 
people at this time supply all the colours for the splendid 
scenery. But, of course, there is here much more than 
mere political emancipation, for these two pecularities mark 
the Old Testament dispensation : first, that naked truth is 
not so much taught there as in the New ; truth being as a 
rule expressed in some external form, as rites, aspects of 
national life, victory or defeat, and the like ; and, second, 
which is to say the same thing the other way, that thus 
all political and social and external movements on the 
face of the national life had also a religious meaning, that 
is, not only symbolised religious truths, but were religious 
movements. The Exile, for example, was not merely a 
political movement, symbolising the taking away of the 
blessings given as a heritage of God, and Eestoration 
another outward movement, symbolising a return to God 
and to the blessings of fellowship with Him; but these 
things, Exile and Eestoration, were felt to be, and were in 
large degree, the very things which they symbolised. The 
spiritual truth and the material clothing of it were never 
disjoined. And just as the Exodus was not only a national 



emancipation from bondage, which might symbolise a spiritual 
delivery from sin, but really was such a religious deliverance, 
brought about by the spirit of God, so the Exile was not 
only a national enslavement which might fitly symbolise, but 
also one which was, a spiritual bondage ; and in like manner 
the Eestoration not only symbolised, but was, the introduc- 
tion into religious freedom. 

Now this truth, fundamental to the Old Testament dis- 
pensation, explains these two things, namely, first, that the 
liberation from Babylon has always coupled with it libera- 
tion from sin : " her warfare is accomplished, her iniquity 
is pardoned " ; and, second, that these are not considered by 
the prophet two things, one of which takes place after the 
other, and independently of the other, and by other means 
than the other, but two sides of the same thing, both of 
which take place together. Certainly the order of thought 
is not this : first, release from Babylon through Cyrus ; second, 
and after the first, release from sin through the sull'ering 
of the Servant of the Lord ; but rather this, the Church 
and nation that is in captivity is in a double captivity 
to sin and Babylon, which is the punishment of sin. Its 
redemption, therefore, must also be twofold, from Babylon 
and from sin : and the glory that shall follow is equally 
double, restoration to Canaan and to God's presence there. 
Hence the prophet, standing before the redemption from 
Babylon and the restoration to Canaan, conceives both these 
things as complete and final. The redemption is absolute : 
" Her iniquity is pardoned, her warfare is accomplished " ; 
and so is the restoration : " He shall lead His people like 
a flock. . . . Say to the cities of Judah : Behold your God." 

This, then, being plain, we pass on to consider the 
question of the Servant of the Lord in these chapters. 
To the question : Who is the Servant of the Lord in 
these chapters of Isaiah ? many answers have been given. 
But when these answers are compared together, a large 


number of them are found to have more points of agree 
ment with one another than of difference. They are 
found to coincide with one another so far, and diverge 
only at the end. Now this fact suggests that the inquiry 
ought rather to be, in the first instance, What is the 
Servant of the Lord ? For, when it is found that there 
is agreement as to the characteristics of the Servant, as 
there generally is, when this question only is under dis- 
cussion, the further question, Who then is the subject to 
whom these characteristics belong ? is made greatly more 
simple. It is then found that the diversity of answers 
returned by students of the prophecy to this latter ques- 
tion arises from their taking it up in dissimilar senses, 
and making two quite different questions of it. 

The majority of writers who are mainly interested in 
the religious side of Scripture and the redemptive truths 
which it contains, have conceived the question to be : In 
whom, then, in fact, have these characteristics of the Servant 
been united and realised ? And they answer : In the Christian 
Messiah. On the other hand, when put by interpreters who 
are interested in the historical development of redemption, 
and who pursue the grammatical and historical method of 
interpretation, the question has been : To whom did the 
prophet in his own mind attribute these characteristics ? 
To which question the answers have been somewhat various, 
such as, the prophetic body, or one of the prophets ; the 
Jewish people ideally conceived, or as true to its ideal ; or 
those of the Jewish people true to its ideal. It is plain, 
however, that these two questions are quite distinct, and 
therefore that answers returned to them, though also quite 
distinct, may be perfectly consistent with one another. 

No doubt either party may hold that the question, as put 
by the other, is irrelevant. The theologians may say : It 
can be of no consequence to us, Christians and believers in 
inspiration, what subject the prophet had in his own mind. 


And the critics may say : Our function is simply to discover 
what the prophet intended, for the meaning of any com- 
position is what its author meant by it. But it is only 
the unwise of both parties who speak in such a way. No 
theologian can afford, when interpreting Scripture, to put 
out of his view what he may call the human author. 
And there is not one of the better class of critics who 
does not recognise the pertinence of the question, In whom 
are the features of the Servant to be recognised ? or who 
does not give the same answer to the question as the 
orthodox theologians. In an essay on the 53rd of Isaiah, 
printed from Bleek's posthumous papers in the Studien und 
Kritiken of 1861, this sentence occurs: 

" What the prophet here says as yet in general, in 
reference to the Servant as such, as it were in dbstracto, 
has received its complete fulfilment in the One, who was 
the only holy and perfectly sinless among the human 
race, and therefore the only one whose sufferings had 
such a character that, not being due to His own individual 
transgression in any way, they can only be regarded as 
serving for the atonement of the sins of men." 

A true answer to the question, Who is the Servant ? 
must be consistent, on the one hand, with the conditions 
of the prophecy, and, on the other, with the statements of 
the New Testament. The conditions of the prophecy, such 
as its place in the Exile and the like, have been already 
seen. The New Testament applies much of what is said 
of the Servant to Christ. Our theory of the Servant 
must be such as in fairness to admit of this. But the 
prophecy may be fairly applied to Him, if it be a Messianic 
prophecy of any of the kinds formerly described. That 
is, it may be, first, directly Messianic, i.e., may refer in the 
prophet's own mind to the Messiah, whether it correspond 
exactly to the Messiah's history, or describe Him more in 
colours drawn from Old Testament relations ; or, second, it 


may be a typical Messianic prophecy, i.e. one not spoken 
by the prophet with conscious reference to the Messiah, 
but with a reference in his own mind to something in the 
Old Testament which was imperfectly that which the Messiah 
was perfectly in the New when He came, e.g. a prophet, or 
the prophetic function or office, or Israel as the light of the 
world, the bearer of God's revelation, and such like. And of 
this indirect Messianic there may be two kinds, the ideal and 
the ordinary, the ideal, in which the prophet, though referring 
consciously to the Old Testament thing, yet speaks of it ideally, 
according to its perfect state rather than according to its 
empirical condition as realised in the Old ; or ordinary, i.e. 
in which he speaks of it as it then was. And, of course, in so 
long a series of chapters as this, it is conceivable that some 
passages might be ideal, and some ordinary, though the same 
subject were alluded to in both. 

The Messianic in these last chapters of Isaiah runs in 
two lines, the same two lines in which it runs throughout 

' O 

the Old Testament generally. For example, the New 
Testament, which is the authoritative expounder of the 
Messianic of the Old, applies the things said of God's 
return to Israel in chap. 40 s to Christ. The passage, 
" Prepare ye the way of the Lord," is referred to the 
Messiah in the Gospels, no doubt after a special turn 
had been given to it by the prophet Malachi. The words, 
" And the glory of Jehovah shall be revealed, and all 
flesh shall see it together," are taken up in many ways 
in the New Testament, and said of Christ : " He manifested 
forth His glory"; "We beheld His glory." This is the 
divine side, the perfect manifestation of God among men, 
the union of God with man. This line runs through the 
whole Old Testament. The incarnation is but the cul- 
mination of the theophanies, of God's personal appearance, 
we cannot say how, to Adam and Moses ; in His manifes- 
tation of Himself in the Angel of the covenant, and the 


Angel of His face, and the like. These things were all 
temporary manifestations of God on earth, dwellings of 
God among men, foreshadowing a perfect incarnation and a 
permanent indwelling. 

Thus all these passages which speak of God in manifes- 
tation, of God's glory being revealed, of His feeding His 
people, and dwelling among them, the New Testament uses 
of Christ, who is God manifest. In this way the Epistle to 
the Hebrews also applies the 102nd Psalm to Him: "Thou, 
Lord, in the beginning, didst lay the foundation of the earth ; 
and the heavens are the work of Thy hands." The Old 
Testament writer had not in his mind a distinction of per- 
sons in the Godhead when writing this, but he had in his 
mind certain operations and self -manifestations of God. A 
further revelation is enabled to say : " It is God the Son 
whose works these are ; God becomes manifest in Christ." 
These passages are not predictions of the Son as distinct 
from the Father, they are predictions regarding God which 
history and subsequent revelation have shown to be true 
of God as manifest in the Son. The writer of the Epistle 
to the Hebrews does not adduce them as proof-texts, he 
stands with history behind him, with the life of Christ 
transacted, and with a consciousness filled with all that 
he was believed and known to be, and he interprets these 
passages said of God, and finds them fulfilled in the Son. 

But, again, there is a second stream of Messianic also 
running through the Old Testament, and, of course, running 
very strongly in these chapters of Isaiah, consisting of 
elements arising from the human side. The former side 
consisted of various ways in which God came down among 
men, uniting Himself with them till He became man. 
This consists of various ways in which man rises up to 
God. Salvation is the union of man and God. That 
union is the point of meeting of two processes, God's 
coming down, and man's rising up. Now, all stages of 


this elevation of man, and all instances of it, and all the 
means whereby it is accomplished, are Messianic, predictive 
of Christ, and applied to Him in the New Testament. 

The most general instance of this elevation of man to 
union with God was the endowment of Israel with God's 
Spirit, which ruled Israel, and made Israel in its national 
capacity the Servant of the Lord ; and the general stream 
of endowment parted into distinct channels which ran in 
the prophetic, priestly, and kingly orders. This endowment 
was Messianic in countless ways ; through it Israel became 
son of God : " I called My son out of Egypt." In the 
Exodus, Israel was begotten, and became the firstborn ; but 
this was a spiritual thing though also manifested outwardly. 
Through this same endowment the royal house of David 
at least all who sat on the throne were sons of God : 
" I will be to him a father, and he shall be to Me a son." 
The king was begotten son, when created theocratic king ; 
but this creation was again a spiritual thing, though it 
had an external manifestation in the office. If the Old 
Testament is to be understood, it must be regarded as a 
real substantial kingdom of God, and everything in con- 
nection with it must also be regarded as real. 

Let us therefore now inquire how Isaiah uses the 
term ' Servant/ And, first, we come to the passage, chap. 
41 8ff - : 

" But thou, Israel My servant, 
Jacob whom I have chosen, 
The seed of Abraham my friend. 

Thou whom I took hold of from the ends of the earth 
And called from the corners thereof, 
And said to thee, Thou art My servant ; 
I have chosen thee, and not rejected thes. 
Fear not ; for I am with thee : 
Be not dismayed ; for I am thy God." 


This is the first occasion on which the prophet uses the 
term ' servant/ and it is but fair to suppose that we have 
here the key to his usage of the expression throughout. 
What, then, are the ideas connected with the servant ? 
and who is said to be servant? The ideas are: (1) The 
servant became so by the choice, the election of God : " Whom 
I have chosen ; I have chosen thee, and not rejected thee." l 
(2) The servant is Israel, Jacob, seed of Abraham. (3) The 
servant became so, when taken hold of from the ends of 
the earth, and when called from the corners of it. The 
elements, so to speak, out of which the servant was formed 
were Israel, Jacob, seed of Abraham ; but it was the taking 
hold of him, which is elsewhere called the creating of 
him, the forming of him from the womb, and the like, 
that raised him into the position of servant. (4) It 
seems implied in the address that Israel was conscious of 
being servant : " I said to thee, Thou art My servant." 
Then follows an assurance that God will stand by His 
servant and help him, and give him victory over all his 
enemies, and remove all obstacles that lie in his way : 
" Fear not ; I am with thee. Behold, all they that were 
incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded. 
Fear not, thou worm Jacob ; behold, I make thee a new 
sharp thrashing instrument having teeth : thou shalt thresh 
the mountains . . . and beat them small . . . and the 
wind shall carry them away." 2 Nothing is said here as 
to the office of the servant, or his duties. We might 
infer something from the term ' servant.' We might also 
say that the mission of the servant will be identical with 
that of the seed of Abraham, or with that of Abraham. 
But it is preferable to leave inferences alone, and pass on 
to other passages which add new elements to our know- 
ledge of the servant. The points gained, then, are these, 
that Israel, Jacob, the seed of Abraham, is the servant; 

1 Isa. 41 8a - 9b . 2 Isa. 


that God's election, and His calling them into national 
existence, constituted Israel servant ; and that Israel was 
conscious of being servant. It is needless to adduce 
additional statements in confirmation of these positions ; 
these chapters are filled with passages that leave no room 
to doubt that the nation Israel, as nation, is servant of 
the Lord. 

Now, before passing on, I may observe how peculiar a 
subject this is, and how susceptible it is of a great variety 
of predicates and descriptive epithets being applied to it. 
The prophet might speak of Israel the servant, under this 
name, as it then was when he contemplated it, sinful, 
despondent, unskilled to detect the working and presence 
of God in the events then occurring : " Who is blind, but 
My servant ? or deaf, as My messenger whom I send ? " x 
" Eemember these things, Jacob ; for thou art My servant 
... I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy trangressions." 2 
Or, on the other hand, seeing such conditions of Israel 
are manifestly not the true condition of one who is servant 
of the Lord, the prophet might speak of Israel the servant 
ideally, as realising in itself all the features of the true 
servant, the very divine thought and purpose with it, 
though it was, in truth, far enough from doing this. We 
must not forthwith conclude that ideal descriptions of the 
Servant cannot be applied to Israel, because Israel in fact 
may not correspond to them. Israel as yet had never 
been true to its ideal, but it had an ideal nevertheless. 
And it is certainly the prophet's view that now, when 
restored, this ideal was going to be realised by Israel. 

The next passage of importance in the development of 
the idea of the Servant is that in chap. 42 lff> , which runs as 
follows : 

" Behold My servant, whom I hold fast : 
My chosen, in whom My soul is pleased : 

1 Isa. 42 la . " Isa. 44 21 


I will put My spirit upon him : 

He will bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. 

He will not cry, nor lift up his voice, 

Nor make his voice be heard in the street. 

The broken reed he will not break, 

Nor quench the glimmering light : 

He will bring forth judgment in truth. 

He shall not fail nor be discouraged, 

Till he have set judgment in the earth : 

And the isles shall wait for his teaching." 

This very instructive passage adds some essential elements 
to the idea of the Servant. (1) It indicates what his great 
function is : To bring forth judgment, i.e. practical religion, 
right acting, to the Gentiles. Judgment is the practice 
which has ' righteousness ' (P^-f or n P r *Pf) f r its principle. 
Bringing forth judgment implies bringing forth righteousness. 
The representation is that he shall instruct the Gentiles, for 
they are said to wait upon his law ( n ^ n ) or teaching. The 
representation is similar to that in chap. 2 3 : " He will teach 
us of his ways : for out of Zion shall go forth teaching, and 
the word of the Lord from Jerusalem." This teaching seems 
elsewhere called ' light ' : " The Gentiles shall come to thy 
light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising." (2) The 
method to be adopted by the Servant in performing his great 
function, the method of meekness and peace, not violence or 
force : " He shall not cry, nor lift up his voice ; the bruised 
reed lie shall not break." And, (3) which is hardly a distinct 
thing, his unwearied devotion to his calling, and his success : 
" He shall not fail, till he have set judgment in the earth." 
And (4) his endowment for this great office : " I will put 
My spirit upon him." I consider the word ^nj (perf.) to 
have the present or future meaning so usual in that verb, 
and not to refer to the past. 

Now, if we inquire who is the Servant in this passage, 


there is nothing, so far as appears, to hinder its application to 
Israel. For, first, the passage cited from chap. 2 3 : " For out 
of Zion shall go forth teaching," contains a parallel idea. 
Second, many of the predicates of the servant here are the 
same as those of Israel in the former passage, 41 8ff - ; for 
example : " I hold thee fast with the right hand of My 
righteousness," l of the people ; here, " My servant, whom I 
hold fast." 2 Again : " Thou Israel my servant, Jacob whom I 
have chosen," 3 of the people ; here : " Behold My servant, My 
chosen, in whom My soul is well pleased." 4 In addition, the 
term ' servant ' is used in both places. Further, it is here 
said : " I will put My spirit upon him " ; and elsewhere it is 
said : " Hear, Jacob My servant ; and Israel whom I have 
chosen : I will pour My spirit upon thy seed, and My 
blessing upon thy offspring." 6 The passage may thus de- 
scribe Israel, the servant, whose great service consists in 
bringing forth judgment to the Gentiles, in the condition in 
which now at last, when restored, he is to enter upon his 
great mission, his method of pursuing it, and the certain 
result of it. 

The term ' servant ' of Jehovah is, of course, used in a 
general sense in Scripture, e.g. of Job, My servant Job, 
of David, and of the prophets in general. But its use in 
this book is special, and in a sense upon which the other 
general ideas of the book cast light. 

The fundamental idea of the prophet is the absolute 
Deity of Jehovah : He is the only God, beside Him there 
is none. The struggle that is going on is between true 
Jehovah worship and idolatry. This struggle is a decisive 
one ; it is being fought out. The knowledge of Jehovah 
not as abstractly God alone, but as God such as He is is 
the salvation of the world. This is now what the prophet 
conceives Jehovah as bringing near. This is His work, 

2 Isa. 42 1 . 3 Isa. 41 8 . 

4 Isa. 42 1 . B Isa. 44 1 ' 3 . 


His purpose. As performing this work, He is P^V, He is 
righteous and a Saviour. The element or sphere within 
which He moves in doing all His work is P*ra righteousness. 
Hence it is only after Jehovah had been seen in His true 
Godhead that His servant is introduced in chap. 42. Now, 
in this which Jehovah is doing He has a servant. The 
servant is His instrument in effecting His great work. The 
work being to make known Himself, to make Him recognised 
as God alone, God in truth ; the servant must himself be in 
possession of this truth, penetrated by it, inspired by it. 
And the work of the servant is to bring forth this truth to 
the Gentiles to bring forth judgment to the Gentiles to be 
the light of the Gentiles. 

Jehovah's servant possessed of this truth itself, inspired 
by it, exhibiting this light of the true religion, is Israel; 
and its task, as servant, is to bring it forth to the Gentiles, 
to the world, that the isles may wait for its instruction. 
This is the idea of the servant of the Lord in general ; and 
this is the work of the Lord which he is performing, His 
plan, within the frame of which all that He is now Himself 
doing is done, and which is the task of the Servant, as His 
servant, to perform. 

Now, it is evident from innumerable passages of this 
prophet, that Israel is called by him the servant of the Lord ; 
that is, Israel under certain conceptions, namely, as elect 
of Jehovah, as created and formed by Him, as endowed with 
His spirit, or as having His prophetic word or revelation in 
its mouth, and as serving the Lord's universal purpose of 
salvation with the world ; it is Israel under these concep- 
tions that is the Lord's servant. It is really these divine 
characteristics of Israel, as they may be called, particularly 
the word of Jehovah being in it. 

When we compare chaps. 42 and 49, there are two points 
to which allusion needs to be made. First, in both there is 
brought to light a distinction drawn by the prophet between 


the servant and Israel. The servant is not all Israel. On 
this point two statements will suffice. First, the function of 
this servant is to restore the tribes of Israel ; to be a 
covenant of the people, that is, to be the medium of bringing 
the people again into covenant with God, or rather, as the 
covenant had never been broken, as is so often in these 
chapters affirmed, the medium through which the whole 
people should realise the blessings of the covenant : " I will 
form thee, and make thee a covenant of the people," where 
oy must be Israel. " It is a small thing for thee to be My 
servant in restoring the tribes of Israel." There is thus a 

The servant is not all Israel. His function is to restore 
Israel. The tribes of Israel here may be the outlying 
fragments of Israel, the tribes of the Northern kingdom ; 
it is all the scattered members of the dispersion everywhere. 
The servant, therefore, is not all Israel actually. But, on the 
other hand, the servant, even in this limited sense, is still 
called Israel, e.g. chap. 49 3 : "Thou art My servant, thou art 
Israel in whom I will glorify Myself." And again, 5 1 16 , 
in words exactly resembling those said to the servant in 
chap. 49, Israel is addressed : " I have put My words in 
thy mouth, and have covered thee in the shadow of Mine 
hand, to plant a heaven and found an earth, and say unto 
Zion, Thou art My people." Thus the servant, even in the 
limited sense, is still Israel. The size, so to speak, does not 
interfere with the realising of the idea. That element in 
Israel, or those elements in Israel which realise the idea 
of Israel, are still a unity, an ideal to the prophet, which lie 
calls the servant. One of the main peculiarities of this ideal 
unity is the endowment of it with the prophetic gift, with 
the spirit of God as the spirit of revelation. Thus it becomes 
the light of the Gentiles. But the prophet holds fast to the 
ideal unity, Israel. 

But, second, this introduces the fresh point which 


chaps. 42 and 49 raise, namely, the suffering of the servant. 
This is implied in chap. 42 : "He shall not fail nor be broken, 
till he set judgment in the earth." Again, even more fully 
in chap. 49 : "I said, I have laboured in vain, and spent my 
strength for nought." And more distinctly : " Thus saith 
the Lord to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the 
nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers, Kings shall see and 
stand up, princes also shall worship, because of the Lord that 
is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel who hath chosen thee." 
And, of course, most fully in chap. 53. 

Now, as the prophets were practical teachers, they all 
occupy themselves with the life of the people, as it comes 
before them. The people are the people of God. The people 
of God does not consist of a series or number of units ; it is 
an organised body, a unity, a people in the strict sense. 
Hence the prophets direct their attention mainly to the life 
of the nation as this collective people of God. The conduct 
of individuals is less alluded to, in so far as it concerns 
these individuals themselves ; it is of interest only as it is 
symptomatic of the general condition of the people, or as 
it affects or reacts upon this. The prophets are statesmen 
in the kingdom of God. It is the idea of this that fills their 
minds ; it is the conception of what this kingdom is that 
inspires them ; and all their efforts are directed, in the 
particular circumstances of each of them, towards realising 
this conception. 

Hence they have little occasion to go back to first prin- 
ciples, or raise questions about the origin of evil or the 
nature of evil, or how the individual man is connected with 
the whole, and on what principle it is that each member of 
a sinful race comes into existence, affected with the malady 
of the race. And as little occasion have they to grope about 
for a standard of morality. They stand, on the one hand, 
on facts of experience ; and, on the other, within a constitu- 
tion or kingdom of God, the principles of which are far from 


obscure ; for God hath not spoken in a dark place of the 
earth secretly; He hath not bidden the seed of Jacob seek 
His face in indeterminate conditions ; He speaks right, and in 
clearness. The Scriptures of the prophetic age teach that 
each individual man is a sinner ; and this is but in each case 
an instance of the general fact that all men are sinners. The 
individual is sinful in conformity with the larger fact that 
the family, or the people, or the race to which he belongs, is 
sinful. He descended of sinners, he dwells among sinners, 
or, on the largest scale, a clean cannot come out of an 
unclean. 1 

Naturally, what we have presented to us is facts. Ab- 
stract conceptions are not to be looked for. The moral prin- 
ciple of divine government, according to which individuals 
are born with an inherited bias to evil, for which they are 
responsible, or which inevitably issues in actual deeds of evil, 
for which they are responsible, is not reflected on. Much 
less is there any reflection on this bias or propension of 
the nature itself. The conception of what we call a ' human 
nature,' participated in by the individual, and conditioning 
the individual, being anterior to his personal and conscious 
acts, is hardly to be expected. There is perhaps no reflection 
on the individual's condition prior to his own acts. Never- 
theless, the individual is not a unit nor treated as such. 
The family is a unity, and so is the people, and so is mankind ; 
and in God's treatment the individual is involved with the 
larger mass, both for good and evil. But the principle of 
moral government according to which this happens is not re- 
flected on ; that is, this principle of treatment of the individual 
is not brought into relation to the individual's rights directly. 
He suffers along with the guilty the penalty of sins of which 
he was not personally guilty, and in like manner he is 
beloved for the father's sake. No doubt the later prophets 
do begin to reflect on this point. 

1 Job H 4 . 


The personal life of the individual, and the direct 
relations in which he stands to God, apart from his relations 
to Him as a mere member of the people, though less alluded 
to by the prophetic teachers as leaders of the people in its 
public relations to God, must always have been of much 
importance. This inner individual life we see reflected in 
the Psalms and other more personal compositions. But 
only when the State began to break up, and the public 
unity of the people to be dissolved and their relation to 
God in that aspect to lose its meaning, do the prophets 
turn their attention to the relation of the individual to God. 
Probably Isaiah formed the conception of a nucleus of true 
adherents of Jehovah apart from the public form of national 
life. He sealed up the testimony among his disciples. He 
formed a Church of faithful men, he and his children, looking 
to the future. To him, the theocratic form had become a 
husk. But it is distinctively Jeremiah who is the creator 
of the individual, and who rises to those conceptions of a 
covenant with God, which the individual must form. 

Hence in the new covenant the law is written on the 
individual's heart; one man no more teaches another. Prophets 
and priests disappear ; the old machinery of the people's life 
is antiquated ; the old conceptions still remain, they could 
not but remain, of grace and faith and free forgiveness and 
the like, but they are now applied directly to the single 
person. And that positive conception of Jeremiah, another 
prophet of his age sets in a negative and antithetic position 
to the conception formerly prevailing : " What mean ye, that 
ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, The fathers 
have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on 
edge ? As I live, saith the Lord, ye shall not have occasion 
to use that proverb any more in Israel. The son shall not 
bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the 
iniquity of the son ; the person that sinneth, he shall die." * 

1 Ezek. 18 2 ' 4 . 


Perhaps it was the strongly subjective character of 
Jeremiah's own mind that helped him to this conception. 
No man was ever the subject of his own reflections more 
than he was. He was to himself the standard in everything ; 
the profound truthfulness and sincerity of his own nature 
was in that age almost the only standard he had. He was 
conscious of being a true prophet of the Lord, and from his 
own convictions and aims and feelings in that capacity he 
formed his conceptions of what religion was. He was isolated. 
The organic body of the theocracy had become indurated, 
and the life of God could no longer find a channel in it ; it 
was withered and falling to pieces. Here and there only 
an individual likemiuded with himself was found. But a 
false spirit had taken possession of the forms of public life, 
and expressed itself through them. And therefore a recon- 
struction must take place, and in an opposite manner from 
what formerly prevailed. The true life of God would not 
descend from the general to the individual, but manifest 
itself first in the individual, and through the energy of the 
individual spread like leaven through the whole lump. 

In this age a great upheaval from below took place. 
There must always have existed this latent life of God 
among the individuals of the people, but in the earlier 
writings it finds less expression. We have a splendid litera- 
ture and great religious categories, if I can so say, of the 
unity of God, grace, faith, and such like. But it is, as 
presented in the older literature, rather the framework of 
a Church, both in life and thought. Now the frame of 
the State was being shattered, and the life itself, as a life 
of the individual soul, not, of course, isolated, but in unity 
with others, yet the bond of unity, not any external organism, 
but just this very life itself, with its sympathies and its 
common convictions, this life becomes the phenomenon and 
the power in Israel. And this makes the prophecies and 
Psalms of the Exile, such as Jeremiah and the second half of 


Isaiah, theologically the profoimdest part of the Old Testa- 
ment, and the authors of this age the true heralds of the new 

The question of sin naturally raises that of reconciliation 
and forgiveness. This is one of the most difficult and ex- 
tensive of questions, and can be discussed here only in 
relation to the development of prophetic teaching. 

1. We must always start from the actual relation of the 
people in covenant with the Lord. This is always pre- 
supposed. This relation is one of grace on God's part ; but 
this grace has been manifested. Such terms as covenant and 
grace are technical and familiar, and there is always a danger, 
in using such words, that we may not have very definite ideas. 
But such words imply that God is the only source of all 
moral and spiritual good to men, that only by a power or 
influence that comes out from Him can men become like Him 
in mind and heart, which is man's highest good ; that nothing 
exists to induce God to communicate such influence to men, 
or so to put Himself in fellowship with them, that by sym- 
pathy and love to Him they may attain this condition, 
nothing but just His goodness ; and that, in fact, He has in 
this way entered into fellowship with them, and is disciplin- 
ing them, and persuading them, by the exhibition of His love 
to them, to love Him, and thus attain to be likeminded with 
Him. This state of things, then, is assumed to exist. But 
the people in this relation are not considered sinless. They 
err, and are out of the way, and are compassed about with 
infirmities. But for these a means of absolution is provided 
in the sacrificial system. All sins of infirmity might be 
atoned for, whether incurred through passion or selfishness or 
force of circumstances, all sins, provided they were not done 
in direct rebellion against the covenant, that is, in denial of 
the principle of grace itself. The fundamental conception, 
the first principle, was that God was gracious : His name 
was the Lord merciful and gracious, slow to wrath, plenteous 


in mercy. Who is a God like unto Thee ? pardoning iniquity 
and, according to the multitude of Thy tender mercies, blotting 
out my transgressions. 

No doubt, in some cases of flagrant transgression against 
the laws of social well-being, the exigencies of mere civil 
life required the death of the sinner. But ordinarily, for the 
individual, absolution was given through sacrifice. It is a 
difficult question to settle what was the fundamental idea of 
sacrifice. Was it a gift to God, a gift indicating on man's 
side the sincerity of his mind, his readiness to sacrifice all to 
Jehovah, coupled with the devout desire that God would be 
pleased to accept him, and an expression of this desire ? I 
cannot go into this question. The point which I wish to 
touch is another, namely this, whatever was or was believed 
to be the principle of atonement, that which atoned was the 
life of a creature offered unto God ; and, like the covenant 
itself, this means of atonement was provided by God Himself. 
God's favour was not purchased by a gift from the sinner ; 
He Himself indicated the means : " The life of the flesh is 
the blood : and I have given it to you upon the altar to make 
an atonement for your souls." 1 The point here is that, waiving 
all questions of what atonement strictly is, or how blood, i.e. 
life, atones, the atonement is provided by God Himself ; it is 
ultimately but His grace manifesting itself. Through what- 
ever means sin is forgiven, forgiveness comes directly from 
God, and He provides the means for it. The important point 
is really not the means, but the gracious relation of God to 
the sinner. This is the case of the individual, and it forms 
the natural transition to the somewhat wider view of the 

2. The prophets deal not with the individual, but with 
the people ; and they refer little to the provisions made for 
the individual's restitution to the benefits of the covenant; 
nor do they refer much to ritual at all, except in a disparaging 

1 Lev. 17". 


way. Besides the means of atonement for individual trans- 
gressions, there were the national feasts, where sacrifices were 
offered for the sins of the whole people. The references of 
the prophets to these are not favourable. And this has been 
always felt to be a point of difficulty. If we consider the 
position of the prophets whose writings we have, the difficulty 
may be alleviated somewhat. At the time they appeared, 
this state of things existed : There was a diligent observance 
by the people of outward ritual ; while, at the same time, in 
idolatry and calf worship and immorality there was practical 
and fundamental infraction of the principles of the covenant. 
The ritual was half or, sometimes, wholly paganised. It was 
the chief medium for expressing the false religious conceptions 
of the people. Further, there was radical misconception of 
its meaning. Being of the nature of a gift to God, the idea 
naturally invaded the people's minds that in their offerings 
they did God a service of worth in itself ; that He derived 
pleasure or good from the offering, an idea ridiculed in 
Ps. 50: "If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: the 
cattle on a thousand hills are Mine," and that the sacrifice 
was the cause of the forgiveness of sin by its own worth as an 
offering to God. 

The sacrifices, as practised, had become the means of 
obscuring the very idea which lay at their foundation, when 
practised by pious men adhering to the principles of the 
covenant. Forgiveness became earned, it was due from 
God. Now it is here that the prophets step in, to rescue the 
fundamental conception of the covenant, namely, that for- 
giveness of sin is of God's goodness. It is inconceivable that 
they should wage any war against sacrifice in itself. That 
which Moses and all the judges practised, which Samuel, and 
Elijah, and David, and Solomon, and the godly kings of the 
house of Judah after them, engaged in, could hardly in itself 
be assailed by prophetic men. It was the perversion of the 
institution, tho inconsistency and superficiality of those en- 


gaging in it, the fundamental subversion of the idea of it as 
a means of keeping within the covenant fellowship those 
whose general attitude to the covenant was upright, when 
practised by men whose iniquities were a direct rebellion 
against the covenant, it was these things that they rebuked. 
As Isaiah says : " Iniquity and the solemn assembly, I cannot 
away with." x Hence they sought to bring men back to the 
true source of forgiveness and to the true conditions of it, a 
broken and a contrite heart. Whatever the sacrifice was, it 
had no worth in itself before God. It was of worth if it 
symbolised true self-surrender and penitence ; or it might be 
a symbol of a worthier sacrifice to come ; at all events, it 
was not for its sake, but for His name's sake, that God 
blotted out transgression. 

No doubt the circumstances of their day forced upon the 
prophets a loftier conception than even the true idea of the 
ritual could teach. That idea was that within the covenant 
God was gracious ; that all sins except wilful rejection of the 
covenant idea itself were pardonable. The actual rejection of 
the covenant by the people enlarged the prophetic vision, and 
they rose to the extraordinary height of being assured that 
not even wilful infraction of the covenant by the people 
could turn away the favour of God for them ; their unbelief 
could not make His faithfulness of none effect. They were 
thrown back upon the nature of God Himself. Of course, 
too, the rejection of the covenant by the people was never 
universal. There was always a remnant that were faithful ; 
and for their sakes God continued gracious to the whole 
people, and for the memory of what their fathers had been : 
" I will defend this city to save it for Mine own sake, 
and for My servant David's sake." 2 The people are the 
seed of Abraham His friend. And though He chasten them, 
He will not cast them off: like a tree, which when cut down 
retains the stock of a new growth, the holy seed is its stock. 8 

1 Isa. I 13 . 2 Isa. 37 s5 . 3 Isa. 6 18 . 


In the earlier prophets, forgiveness is regarded simply as 
an act of God's mercy. Any mediation of it through an 
atonement is not presented. In Deutero-Isaiah the great 
step is taken to mediate the forgiveness of God, to exhibit 
the means through which it is procured. Even in these 
chapters forgiveness is still an act of God's grace : " I am 
He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine own sake." 
But the prophet goes further. The sufferings of the Exile 
have suggested more - developed thoughts. No doubt the 
sufferings of the people at all times were for their iniquities. 
In a sense they bore in sufferings the penalty of their sins. 
God's favour did not return altogether in a way unmediated. 
The people had the sense of sin brought home to them (see 
the history of the Judges), they were penitent, and God's 
anger turned away. He held the penalty sufficient. This 
idea is also found in this prophet in his general statement in 
chap. 40 : " Her guilt is paid off; she has received of Jehovah's 
hand double for all her sins." Here Jerusalem or Israel is 
spoken of as a whole My people ; it has borne the penalty ; 
the penalty has been held by grace to be sufficient, even 
doubly sufficient. 

But the prophet does not abide by this general concep- 
tion of former prophets ; he makes an advance upon it. 
This bearing of the people's sin falls on some other than 
the guilty. The innocent Servant bears it. Even here, 
however, it is still Jehovah who is the Author of the forgive- 
ness. For this way of forgiveness was His work : " It pleased 
the Lord to bruise him, to put sickness on him." 

There runs through the whole of chap. 53 the idea that 
the sufferings of the Servant were laid on him by Jehovah. 
They were more than those the people endured; even the people 
themselves thought them extraordinary, and looked on them 
as a special divine chastisement. In this they were right, 
but they were wrong in thinking the chastisement due to the 
actual sufferer; it was for their sins that he suffered. This 


is an essential part of the prophet's conception. There is, of 
course, something figurative in his picture. He represents 
the sufferer as afflicted with sickness, as distorted by disease, 
as an object from which men turn away. But the meaning 
of this is, at least mainly, that the sufferings were the conse- 
quence of a special act of God in laying them on the Servant. 
He suffered among the people, but in a degree higher than 
they, and in a different way. 

This representation, that God uses special means to atone 
for the sins of the people, and, secondly, that this special 
means was not employed on the whole people, but on 
another, the penalty being shifted from the people, who 
yet enjoyed the benefits of redemption through the transfer: 
these ideas in this prophet are new. I do not mean that the 
idea of substitution is new, but the application of the idea 
actually to the case of the sinful people seems a new step. 

There are other points very remarkable, especially this, 
that the prophet brings the sufferings of the Servant into 
connection with the sacrificial system. This may seem 
very natural to us. Yet other prophets do not so speak. 
This prophet has borrowed sacrificial phraseology: if his 
soul should make an offering for sin, or if Thou shouldst make 
his life an offering for sin ( D 'N). The prophet has taken 
the great step of lifting up the sacrificial idea out of the 
region of animal life into that of human life. This is a very 
remarkable thing in itself, when we consider that nowhere is 
any explanation given of the sacrifices ; but perhaps, in spite 
of the fact that other prophets allude little to sacrifices except 
to disparage them, it may show what conceptions men who 
understood the sacrificial system and practised it rightly con- 
nected with it. 

There may be difference of opinion on the question who, 
in the prophet's own mind, the suffering Servant was. There 
is, of course, no difference among Christians as to the person 
in whom, in point of fact, the things said have been fulfilled. 


But it is of consequence to look at the thoughts of the prophet 
regarding the sin of his people apart from this question, and at 
his view of their history. His view is that their restoration 
cannot, or does not, take place, without their sin being borne 
by some human sufferer. Their history contains this neces- 
sity, and cannot reach its goal in their restitution without 
this. Whether this sufferer be an individual to the prophet, 
one sinless, realising in himself the idea of Israel in God's 
purposes with it and His endowment of it ; or be the godly 
kernel of the people in Babylon, to whom the idea of the 
true Israel attached, the godly seed, the stock out of which 
the new nation was to spring, this kernel idealised by the 
prophet as sinless, bearing the extremest hardships, despised 
and not esteemed, pierced and slain, yet reviving in the new 
nation, and by its knowledge making many righteous, and 
conceived as exhausting the divine chastisement on itself so 
that the people, in all its outlying fragments, is redeemed, 
whatever view we take of this, the conceptions of the prophet 
are of the most remarkable character, and form the pro- 
foundest element which the Old Testament contributes to 
Christian thought on the subject of redemption. 

3. Now, the idea of the chastisement of the people in 
God's anger is obviously a very complex one. Moreover, 
we must regard it as a process going on within the covenant 
relation. It is not for the destruction, but for the regenera- 
tion of the people. The present forms of the national life 
had become so corrupt and invaded by evil that they must 
be destroyed ; but only in order that a fresh and purer nation 
should arise. To use Isaiah's figure, the tree must be cut 
down, though not uprooted, that out of its stock it may send 
forth new shoots. Or the figure of Amos, the people must 
be sifted in a sieve ; but not one grain shall fall to the ground. 
Or Hosea's, the people must die and be buried; but after 
three days God will raise them up to a new life, an endless 
life, for death itself shall be destroyed. 


Here, however, we have several points. First of all, the 
chastisements of the people, running through all their history 
and ending in the national dissolution, taught the people the 
connection between sin and suffering. For the order was 
invariable. The people sinned. Then the anger of God was 
kindled. Then He proceeded to chastise them. But the 
history taught also another thing. The chastisement was 
removed on repentance. At last God's anger passed away, 
and He returned to them in pity. There was a certain 
exhaustion of the divine wrath. The chastisement seemed 
to Him enough, or more than enough, in His returning com- 
passion : " She has received of the Lord's hand double for 
all her sins,"- her punishment is accepted. The end of 
chastisement had been fulfilled. 

But this process, especially in its last phase, led to 
other conceptions. Inevitably the sins of the mass fell in 
their consequences upon the godly portion of the people. 
Though innocent of the evil, they bore the penalty of the 
sin. As one prophet says : " Our fathers sinned, and we 
have borne their iniquities." And it was not merely the 
common evils falling on all that the godly element bore. 
To them the evils were intensified in many ways, in 
feeling first of all, a feeling which we hear expressed 
in the sorrows of the pious exiles, and their longing after 
Zion in the land of their captivity, but also in hard 
reality. The untheocratic mass accommodated itself to the 
circumstances around it, and fell in with the idolatries and 
customs of the conquerors ; but the kernel of the nation, 
true to their faith, truer, perhaps, from their isolation, 
and in opposition to the degraded forms of worship now 
about them, suffered oppressive hardships at the hands of 
their masters. " Their rulers make them to howl," l says 
the prophet. And again : " I gave my back to the smiters, 
and my cheek to them that pull out the hair." Thus, in 

1 Isa. 52 s . - Isa. 50 6 . 


a manner, the sins of others fell upon the faithful kernel 
of the nation. 

Again, as the national unity involved the godly in 
evils clue to the sinful portion of the nation, on the other 
hand, the faith and the patience of this pious kernel 
secured the restoration of the ungodly. The time of release 
came. The chastisement was exhausted, not on those who 
had deserved it, but on a generation innocent of their 
sins. The restoration effected through the patience and the 
faith of these exiles might be looked upon by the generation 
restored as clue to the sufferings and the knowledge of God 
of the generation of the godly exiles. They had borne the 
chastisement of the nation's sins. How far such ideas are 
just, or how far the course of the people's experience and 
history was likely to suggest such thoughts, I need not stop 
to inquire, though I think it not unlikely that such thoughts 
would arise. 

Having thus shown the general lines along which the 
actual history of Israel, as a people, would naturally cause 
the teaching of the prophets regarding the connection of sin, 
suffering, and redemption to develop, we are now in a position 
to give a full answer to the question already partly discussed, 
namely, What subject had this prophet present to his own 
mind, when speaking of the servant of Jehovah ? Clearly, 
such a question may not only admit, but require, a different 
answer from the other question, In whom have the features 
of the servant been seen in fact ? To this latter question 
the unanimous answer is, ' In the Christian Messiah.' To 
the former, various answers have been, and still are, returned ; 
and perhaps unanimity in regard to it may never be attained. 
Still, we are bound to do our best to ascertain, from a careful 
consideration of all the data we possess, what is the most 
probable and reasonable answer ; for this is the question 
which historical interpretation must put to itself, all the 
while that it holds the other two positions, namely, first, 


that the things here said by the prophet of the servant of 
the Lord have in their general meaning been fulfilled in 
Christ, and the features drawn by the prophet are recognisable 
in Him ; and, second, in accordance with our view of Scripture 
as something, however closely connected with the life and 
history of Israel, more than the utterance of any prophet, 
as something caused to be spoken by One who saw the end 
from the beginning. In accordance with this view, it is also 
to be held that these thoughts of a sinless sufferer, one who 
might almost be called the word and operation of God in- 
carnate in Israel, were revealed with a view to Christ, were 
given out to prepare for Him in whom the thoughts were to 
be verified and the things indicated fulfilled. All this does 
not cause this question to have no meaning ; but it places it 
on its proper footing. 

Now, the opinion that the prophet, when speaking of the 
servant of the Lord, had in his mind the prophetic body, has 
little probability. It is based on the fact that the servant 
has the ' words ' of Jehovah in his mouth, and is endowed 
with His spirit ; but both things are said numberless times 
of the people, as in chap. 57 1G : " I have put My words in thy 
mouth " ; and chap. 44 3 : "I will pour My spirit upon thy 
seed, and My blessing upon thine offspring." And there is 
no reason why the prophetic body, to the exclusion of all 
other godly men, should be considered the people, and called 
Israel. And much less could any particular prophet be the 
servant of the Lord. Of course, such a title might be 
bestowed upon a prophet, but not in the sense in which it is 
used in chaps. 42-49, where it is said to the servant: " Thou 
art Israel, in whom I will be glorified." It is supposed by 
some that chaps. 52-53 were originally a funeral oration 
over some martyred prophet ; but the arguments in favour of 
this view are not particularly strong. But even if this view 
were correct, the author of these prophecies has adapted the 
oration to his own purposes ; and it is not its original use, but 


its meaning as having a place in his prophecy and expressing 
his idea of the servant of the Lord, that we have to investi- 

Again, the view that the servant of the Lord is the 
spiritual Israel, those in Israel true to the conception of 
Israel, who may he supposed to he chiefly the godly kernel 
of the nation in Babylon, has its difficulties. It is exceed- 
ingly probable that in making the portrait of the servant, 
in chaps. 49 and 53, the prophet has drawn many of the 
traits and much of the colour from the sufferings and 
the faith of the godly exiles in Babylon, and particularly 
from the heroic faith and endurance of prophetic men. But 
it is probable that he did not confine himself to this period, 
but drew upon the history of the afflictions and labours of 
God's foremost servants in all ages. And it seems scarcely 
according to the prophet's manner of conception and way of 
expressing himself, that he should call even the pious remnant 
in Babylon flower of the nation though they were by the 
exclusive name of Israel, as in chap. 4-9 : " Thou art My 
servant, Israel in whom I will be glorified." The tribes of 
Jacob still exist, the preserved of Israel are still part of 
Israel, every one called by the name of Jehovah in all 
lands, and it is most unlikely, this being his view, that he 
should denote any fragment of the nation in Babylon or 
elsewhere by the name of Israel and servant. 

There remain, therefore, the two other hypotheses, either 
that the Servant is Israel according to its idea, or that he 
is a person whom the prophet foresaw as about to arise 
and realise in himself the conception of Israel, and cause it 
also to be realised in the people as a whole. That is to 
say, either the prophet has created out of the divine 
determinations imposed on Israel, election, creation and 
forming, endowment with the word or spirit of Jehovah, 
and the divine purpose in these operations, an ideal Being, 
an inner Israel in the heart of the phenomenal or actual 


Israel, an indestructible Being, having these divine attributes 
or endowments, present in the outward Israel in all ages, 
powerful and effectual because really composed, if I can say 
so, of divine forces, who cannot fail of God's purpose, and 
who as an inner power within Israel by his operation causes 
all Israel to become a true servant ; either this is the prophet's 
conception, or he foresees a real future individual who shall 
be in reality such a Being. 

In regard to the theory that the servant of the Lord is a 
future individual 

1. It seems to me unnatural that the prophet should 
expand and contract his conception of the servant through 
three degrees ; that he should spring back from the individual 
to the mass, as on this theory he does in chap. 42 1 : " Behold 
My servant, whom I uphold : he shall bring forth judgment 
to the Gentiles " ; and then, in v. 18 : " Who is blind, but My 
servant ? or deaf, as My messenger whom I sent ? " If the 
servant be an ideal Israel in Israel, a real being to the mind 
of the prophet, or a conception which is more than a concep- 
tion, just as the Church is always more than an abstraction, 
then the passage from this ideal Israel to the actual Israel, 
deaf and blind, in v. ls , is easy and natural. And is it not 
somewhat unnatural that the prophet, looking forward to an 
individual, should call this individual Israel, as in 49 3 : " Thou 
art Israel, in whom I will be glorified " ? We may say now- 
adays that the characteristics of the true Israel have been 
realised in an individual ; but that is not quite the same as 
calling an individual Israel. 

2. It has also been argued that the descriptions in chaps. 
42, 49, 53 are so distinctively individual, that they cannot 
possibly be considered to apply to a collective. I do not 
know that the argument is really very strong. A collective 
personified would, of course, be spoken of as a person. But 
the argument is valid only against those who think that the 
godly exiles in Babylon personified are the servant. I do 


not think this idea can be sustained. The prophet is fond 
of abstractions, which he personifies and idealises. Thus he 
personifies Babylon as a captive maid in chap. 47 ; and he 
does the same with Jerusalem or Zion in numberless places, 
distinguishing her from her children, that is, the abstract 
conception of the community, as distinct from the individuals 
which compose it, is personified and idealised. So Jacob or 
Israel is distinct from the members ; Jacob or Israel, the 
abstract conception of the nation, personified, and distin- 
guished from Israelites as individuals. Now the Servant of 
the Lord appears to me a similar abstraction, elevated by 
the singular idealisation of the prophet into a Being, and 
distinguished from the individuals or the tribes of Jacob, the 
fragments of the people in all lands. This Being does not 
belong to the Israel of any particular age, he is permanent. 

An extremely important point is to keep separate those 
passages where the servant and the nations are contrasted 
(e.g. 42 1-4 52 13ff -), and those where he and the people of 
Israel are contrasted. In the former the national idea always 
shines out. But much more would an ideal Being, an Israel 
within the outer Israel, an Israel which could not but always 
exist, though it was not to be identified with any section or 
even with any elements in the actual Israel, although, of 
course, some elements more truly represented it than others; 
much more would such a Being, created by the prophet's mind, 
though not merely a creation of his mind, be spoken of as a 
person. If we observe the descriptions, however, of the 
servant even in the passages which seem most personal, the 
national idea seems always to underlie them. When, for 
instance, in chap. 49 7 it is said: "Thus saith the Redeemer of 
Israel to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation 
abhorreth (better, whom nations abhor), to a servant of rulers, 
kings shall see and arise ; princes, and they shall worship," 
does not the phrase, servant of rulers, betray the national 
conception lying under the passage ? and when it is said that 


kings shall rise for reverence, it is to be remembered that 
kings are not individuals, so much as representatives of 
nationalities. And so in 52 14 it is said that "as many were 
astonied at the marred visage of the servant: so shall he 
startle many nations ; kings shall shut their mouths at him," 
the many in both cases are the heathen nations, and does 
not this imply a national conception again underlying the 
description of the servant ? 

And when in chap. 49 the servant comes before the 
nations, saying, " Listen, ye isles, unto me," and then expounds 
to them three successive stadia in his history or conscious- 
ness ; first, his call at the beginning and his equipment : " The 
Lord called me from the womb . . . and He made my mouth 
like a sharp sword . . . and said unto me, Thou art My 
servant Israel, in whom I will be glorified." Second, the 
despondency of the servant : " But I said, I have laboured in 
vain . . ." And, third, the fulfilment of his mission, and 
God's purpose with him now at hand : " But now, saith the 
Lord to me, It is too light a thing that thou shouldst be My 
servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob : I will make thee the 
light of the Gentiles, that My salvation may be to the ends 
of the earth," is not this consciousness of the servant, which 
he here unfolds before the nations, but a reflection of Israel's 
history, its call, and God's purpose with it from of old ; then 
the apparent failure of the purpose, in its sad calamities and 
apparent casting away ; and, finally, the fulfilment of its 
mission, which to the prophet's mind is now imminent ? 

3. Another point is this, though it is perhaps not greatly 
to be insisted upon. In chap. 53 the servant of the Lord is 
represented as slain, and as rising again from the dead. If 
the prophet looked forward to a real individual, this, of course, 
must be taken literally. But is not this more than we should 
expect, from what we know of the Old Testament doctrine of 
immortality ? If the language be used figuratively of the 
death of the nation, as other prophets speak, it is less 


difficult. But perhaps not much weight is to be given to 

4. More weight is due to this peculiar fact. If the 
servant be an individual, the leader and head of the people, 
who redeems them, and becomes their ruler, that is, if the 
representation in the latter verses of chap. 53 be literally 
said of an individual : " I will divide him a portion with the 
great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong," if this be 
literal, as is maintained, and not figurative, we should expect 
to find this leader and head over the people in some of those 
splendid passages, such as chap. GO, where the condition of 
Israel restored is spoken of. 1 But such a head nowhere appears. 
The people alone are the subject in all the pictures of the final 
condition of restored Israel. The servant has disappeared. 
The people are all servants of the Lord, and taught of God. 
Now, this is certainly remarkable, if the servant be an indi- 
vidual leader. But if he be an ideal Being, the hidden Israel 
in Israel, the divine creation within the people, who, in virtue 
of his being a combination, if I can say so, of divine forces, 
leavens Israel till it becomes that which he is, the servant of 
the Lord, it is natural. This Being loses his existence when 
the antithesis between him and the actual Israel ceases ; he 
dissolves in the actual Israel, no\v, in each of its members, a 
servant of the Lord. 

5. Not to multiply more points, I shall mention just one 
additional thing. The critical question has not, in general, 
much influence upon the exegesis. No doubt we must 
assume or admit, in order to understand the prophecy in any 
sense, that the prophet takes his position immediately before 
the restoration from exile ; but whether this position be one 
ideally assumed or be his real historical position, the interpret- 
ation is not greatly affected. The critical question, however, 
has a certain bearing on the inquiry whether, in the prophet's 

1 In Isa. 9 and 11 the Messiah is just the most prominent figure in the 
picture of final salvation ; but here the leader is absent. 


estimation, the servant be an individual. If the position of 
the prophet, immediately before the Eestoration, be his true 
historical position, then the servant of the Lord cannot have 
been to him an individual person. Because, as he regards 
the Eestoration as the beginning of Israel's final felicity, after 
which no afflictions of Israel or of the servant are conceivable, 
the servant's sufferings must have lain behind him, as indeed 
the whole history of Israel lay behind him. But it is evident 
that no such individual as the servant had appeared in all 
the course of Israel's history. It is manifest, too, that certain 
traits in the servant's sufferings are borrowed from the sorrows 
of the Exile. But if the servant were an individual livino- 


during the Exile, the prophet must have been acquainted with 
him, which is altogether impossible. 

On the other hand, if the author of these chapters were 
Isaiah, he might have looked forward to such a great individ- 
ual and have placed his rise amidst the sorrows of the Exile, 
just as, in the earlier chapters, Immanuel appears to rise in 
the midst of the devastations caused by the Assyrian invasion. 
It might well be that the prophet should represent a person 
in the distant future as he does the servant, because, being 
future, he could attach ideal features to him ; but no present, 
or past, historical individual could be so described by him. 
In this way the question of the actual date of the prophecies 
has a direct bearing on the question whether the servant was 
to the prophet's own mind an individual person or not. If 
the prophet really lived immediately or shortly before the 
Eestoration, the servant can hardly have been regarded by 
him as a person; that is, if it be the case, as we have argued 
in the previous chapter, that he represents the perfect salva- 
tion of Israel and the evangelising of the world as immediately 
connected with the Eestoration, already nigh at hand. 

To my mind at least, seeing I believe that the prophet 
did live during the Exile, and that his mode of representation 
was to connect the final felicity of the people with the down- 


fall of Babylon and idolatry and the immediately ensuing 
Eestoration, the possibility of his regarding the servant of 
Jehovah as an individual appears to be absolutely precluded. 

These are some of the difficulties which attach to the 
view that in the prophet's mind the servant was an individual ; 
the difficulties in the way of the other theory are not so 
numerous. One difficulty which beset the former theory is 
not felt here. The movement through three degrees, the 
actual Israel, the spiritual Israel, and the individual, was 
certainly unnatural. On this other theory, there is only the 
simple movement from the actual to the ideal Israel. Prob- 
ably the chief difficulty in the way of this second theory is to 
conceive it. Yet I do not think the difficulty is very great. 
We speak, for instance, of the Church, to which we attach 
certain ideal attributes ; as for example it is elect, endowed 
with God's Spirit, has the presence of Christ, is pure, shall yet 
be universal, and be that in which the Lord shall be glorified. 
When we ourselves speak in this way, we do not have in view 
the actual Church anywhere, nor the Church as represented 
by any particular class of men in this or that age. And yet 
the Church is not an abstraction ; it exists, and we should 
attribute qualities to it drawn from its history, its sufferings, 
and its faith. And we should say that it has a double task 
before it, not only to gather together its own scattered frag- 
ments and to animate them with a pure and perfect faith, but 
also to carry the truth to the nations who do not yet know 
it ; a double function, which pretty much corresponds to the 
double office of the servant of the Lord, first, to the scattered 
fragments of his own race, to the Israelites; and, secondly, 
to the nations of the earth. 

Thus, then, to sum up briefly what seems to me the 
prophet's conception of the Servant of the Lord 

1. He is, first, Israel under certain conceptions, chosen of the 
Lord and endowed with the knowledge of His word, and there- 
fore His servant, His prophet, and messenger to the nations. 


2. Then this conception, abstracted from the individuals 
in Israel, who were not true to it, is personified and treated 
by the prophet as a Being, a true divine creation. This is 
the servant Israel, always existing within the mass of in- 
dividuals in Israel, a hidden man of the heart in Israel all 
through its history; for the divine grace and power which 
elected and endowed Israel could not fail to fulfil its purpose. 
This true Israel was at all times represented by Israelites. 
It was not a mere conception. The conception had embodi- 
ment in saints and prophets and martyrs for the truth. It 
testified and it suffered ; it sank into despondency as if labour- 
ing in vain ; and yet, in the saddest and darkest moments of 
its history, it set its face as a flint, knowing that He was near 
who should justify it. The servant in this sense is never 
contrasted with any other servant. There are not two 
servants. In opposition to this servant, there are the in- 
dividuals or the tribes, or even the people considered as other 
men needing redemption. The description of the sufferings of 
this servant is given chiefly in chap. 53. The prophet may 
borrow from the circumstances of the Exile, its sorrows and 
trials and sufferings ; but his picture is probably made up of 
traits from the whole history, things exemplified in individual 
men, prophets, confessors, and saints, all combined together to 
form the portrait of the ideal person, always existing in Israel, 
always distinguishable from Israelites. 1 In chap. 53 the 
individual aspect of the servant is much stronger than else- 
where. This was natural. Because here the servant is con- 
trasted with Israelites and not with the heathen, and the 
national substratum so apparent in chap. 49 is less visible; 

1 This point, that the servant was never a mere idea, but represented at all 
times in prophets, etc., may be true. Yet it may be made a question whether 
the prophet's idea be not rather that Israel under its idea atoned for Israel 
under its actuality, i.e. all the' history of Israel, its sufferings, calamities, etc., 
befell the servant, though he was free from its sins ; and this history is laid to 
the account of the actual members, it has issued in their restoration. The 
servant is Israel, and yet not Israel. 


but it appears to me to shine through chap. 52 13 ~ 15 , where it 
is said kings shall shut their mouths before the servant. But 
it was quite natural that the prophet's ideal Being should 
become more and more individual in his hands, as he con- 
centrated his mind upon it, and more and more realised the 
moral elements in his creation. 

3. Naturally, the prophet, looking back over the history 
of Israel, now as he conceives it at an end, read it in certain 
lights ; he interpreted it, he construed it, and it seemed to 
him that its meaning, now that Israel's redemption was at 
the door, was this: the servant of the Lord had borne the 
sins of Israel, i.e. of Israelites. Gathering up all the sorrows 
together, the patience, the meekness, the teaching, the suffer- 
ings unto death of godly men, the body of the servant in- 
carnated, it was as if this person, always incarnate in Israel, 
had borne the sins of the individuals, and they were redeemed; 
and history now, as we speak of history, hastened to its close 
in the glory of the Lord. 

4. This was now the meaning of Israel's history when 
standing at the end of it, its whole significance apparent, and 
in front of the final Eestoration, which was, in truth, just the 
result of its real meaning, the prophet could read it as a 
whole. But that which he saw to be its meaning was, no 
doubt, a necessity of the history. That which the history, as 
he was enabled to read it, embodied and contained, namely, 
this bearing of the people's sins, was a necessity in order that 
the history should run its full course. The prophet read the 
history now as it seemed to him ended ; it had this meaning 
to him, redemption of the people through the bearing of their 
sins ; and it could not have reached its end in any other way. 

5. The prophet conceived himself standing at the end of 
Israel's history, with only one momentum of it now to occur, 
the restoration and final felicity in God's presence, as de- 
scribed in chap. 60 ; and it was just because the history 
contained within it the atonement of the people's sins as 


a thing completed and transacted, that the restoration was 
possible and assured. But the prophet's position at the end 
of the history was only an ideal one. Yet what is im- 
portant is, that he conceives himself at the end, and that 
he fully recognises the moral significance of the situation. 
He stands amidst the profoundest moral conceptions, the 
true conditions of restoration are present to his mind, and 
he conceives them as realised in fact. 

6. Yet we know that Israel's history had not then 
ended. But the moral conditions of its taking end which 
the prophet perceived are true conditions. The real end 
will correspond to the ideal. We are already able to see 
his conceptions verified. The necessity of the redemptive 
history, that sins should be borne, has been satisfied. One 
truly corresponding to the prophet's ideal Being, the divine 
in Israel incarnated, sinless and suffering for the sins of the 
people, has taken their sins away. Nothing now stands in 
the way of their restoration. 

7. Thus I think all that is essential is conserved. The 
Christian solution is already here in its conceptions. And 
it is here, though not absolutely in the Christian form, in 
a form not far from it, in a form as near it as could be 
expected in this age with its necessities ; for one of the 
necessities of this age, as of all ages of the history of the 
people of God, was that they should feel that they had a 
present redemption. For the ancient Scripture was written 
not merely for us, but for the ancient people ; and the prophet 
throws the Christian ideas into the living history of that time, 
making the people see them embodied there, and enabling 
them to feel that salvation was a thing real to them in their 
own day. 

Any exegesis of ours, here or elsewhere, that would be 
contrary to the New Testament, or not in harmony with it, 
would be false. But suppose this were the prophet's con- 
ception, an Israel in Israel, something made up of the 


divine forces concentrated in Israel, its election, creation, 
endowment with God's word, therefore, because divine, in- 
destructible, and that could not fail of realising God's purpose 
of salvation in Israel and thus in the world, suppose this 
were the prophet's conception which he has personified, 
made by a remarkable mental process a Being, is not his 
conception singularly verified in the history of our Lord ? 
Of course, to form his picture of this ideal Being, he has 
gathered together traits from the history of Israel in all 
times, especially the time of suffering, the trials of faithful 
men, the death of martyrs who died only to rise again in a 
spiritual seed, the unvocalised testimony of prophets amidst 
persecutions, whatever was of redemptive significance in 
Israel he has brought together to form his ideal Israel. 

And if this view be just, we should have not only the 
expression of profound truths of religion, the profoundest truths 
revealed in the Old Testament, but an intellectual creation 
of surprising brilliancy, a piece of literature to which there is 
nothing equal perhaps in any other writings that exist. The 
writers of Scripture certainly do not despise literary splen- 
dour, nor do they consider it superfluous, much less injurious. 
Their whole minds, intellect, and imagination are consecrated 
to God, and inspired by Him. The Scriptures, besides being 
the word of God, are splendid creations of mind ; and perhaps 
in our religious compositions we might with advantage keep 
the example of the prophets before us, for they show us that 
truth may be allied with the highest literary power and 
brilliancy without any detriment to the truth. 



THE opinion that the ' servant of the Lord ' in Isaiah was 
some individual of his own time or the time of the author 
of these chapters, supposing him not to have been Isaiah, has 
been dismissed as unsupported, and now, indeed, generally 
abandoned. Bunsen, who thought Baruch the author of 
these chapters, considered Jeremiah the subject of them. 
But such opinions are only valuable as a kind of guide to 
the mental character of their authors, which they do not 
tend to set in a very favourable light. The only view that 
can be held consistently with the statements in the passage 
is, that Israel is the servant of the Lord. But as conflicting 
predicates are used by the prophet of this Israel who is 
servant, it is evident that the prophet does not use the term 
Israel always in the same sense ; and as things are said of the 
servant which were never true of the people of Israel as a 
people, we have concluded that the prophet speaks of Israel 
ideally, or at least as existing in several forms. Hence a 
variety of predicates can fairly be applied to it, which, 
though not true of Israel as it ever was, yet were more or less 
true of some elements in it at all times, and became fully 
true of Him w T ho gathered up into Himself in perfection all 
its essential elements. 

The only question, therefore, that requires further eluci- 
dation is in what way the prophet conceived that Israel 
accomplished the work of the servant of the Lord. Israel 
has been compared to a pyramid, of which the base was all 



Israel as it was usually found, ' blind,' ' deaf,' a people 
robbed and spoiled, etc. ; then a smaller section embracing 
the true Israel, who were thirsting, ' seeking water,' ' seeking 
righteousness,' desponding and saying, " My way is hid from 
Jehovah," " The Lord hath forgotten me," this true Israel 
being very much represented by the prophetic body ; and, 
finally, the apex of the pyramid, one who drew into himself 
all the lines of Israel's development, and was the true Israel 
of God fully. This is the view of Delitzsch, and is one that 
expresses Israel both as to quality and number, which vary 
inversely, the greater the number, the more deteriorated the 
quality, till at last the unity embodies the perfection of 
the qualities. This view finds the Messiah, Israel, reduced 
to a unit already in the 42nd chapter. This same view 
has been represented in this country in a way somewhat 
different, and more like the representations of the New Testa- 
ment as to the relations of the Messiah and His people. 

The figure of the head and the body has been employed, 
and the diversity of predications explained by saying that 
some were applicable only to that part of the whole which was 
head, and some only to that part of the whole which was 
body, and some to the complex whole, comprising both head 
and body. I do not think that such a way of representing 
the relation of the Messiah to His people prevails in the Old 
Testament. Indeed, the way of presentation here is just the 
reverse. Israel, the people, is not an extension of the 
Messiah the head ; on the contrary, the Messiah the kernel 
is a concentration of Israel the mass. In the Old Testament 
the lines are found only converging towards a point. This 
point reached, which is the Messiah, the contrary process 
begins, and the lines diverge away from it. In the Old 
Testament the Church brings forth the Messiah, she has 
from the first conceived Him ; in the New, He is the Captain 
of salvation, by whom God brings many sons to glory. 

Another way of conceiving the servant so as that all 


the predications should be applicable, is to regard Israel as 
a root consisting of several folds. This conception of the 
servant Israel does not differ from that of Delitzsch. The 
third way is to regard Israel as a unity with several deter- 
minations, as having certain intentions of God impressed upon 
it and embodied in it, and as having, corresponding to each of 
these intentions, some class that more or less truly realised 
them. Israel embodies several distinct ideas. These ideas 
are more or less completely exhibited in various classes in 
Israel, each of which classes may be regarded as determina- 
tions of the one Israel. And the prophet, when speaking of 
the servant, always means Israel the servant ; but means it 
in this or that aspect of it, and describes it in terms of this 
or that class in it, which realises that aspect or side of its 
ideal. This is certainly the true view. We shall therefore 
consider what classes these chapters describe as really 
existing in Israel. First, there were true prophets, e.g. : 
" How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of him that 
bringeth good tidings. Thy watchmen lift up the voice ; 
with the voice together they sing." x Second, there were false 
prophets : " His watchmen are blind : they are all ignorant, 
they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark ; lying down, loving 
to slumber. Yea, they are greedy dogs which cannot have 
enough : they all look to their own way, every one for his gain." 2 
Third, there were many true servants of Jehovah : " Ye that 
know righteousness." 3 " The poor and needy are seeking 
water." 4 "The righteous perishes, and no man lays it to 
heart." 5 " Ho, every one that thirsteth," 6 although, perhaps, 
even these true worshippers were very faint-hearted. "My way 
is hid from Jehovah"; 7 and very unintelligent many of them, 
hence called blind without eyes : " Who is blind, but My ser- 
vant ? " 8 and blind with eyes : " Bring forth the blind people 

1 Isa. 52 7 '-. 2 Isa. 5C lof '. s Isa. 51 7 . 

4 Isa. 41 17 . 5 Isa. 57 1 . G Isa. 55 1 . 

7 Isa. 40 27 . 8 Isa. 42 19 . 


that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears " ; 1 " We grope 
for the wall as if blind, yea we grope as if we had no eyes." 
Fourth, there were hypocritical worshippers, insincere servants : 
" Hear ye this, house of Jacob, who swear by the name of 
the Lord, and make mention of the God of Israel, but not in 
truth nor in righteousness." 3 Fifth, and finally, there were 
open idolaters and ethnicisers, persecutors of God's servants 
the prophets and the pious among the people : " Draw near 
hither, ye sons of the sorceress." 4 "I gave my back to the 
smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair : I 
hid not my face from shame and spitting." 5 Israel contained 
all these classes ; hence, Israel the servant may be described 
in terms characteristic of these classes ; they may be 'looked 
at as determinations of the one Israel. But, of course, it is 
chiefly as realising the various sides of the idea of Israel 
that it is addressed and called servant. Now, the sides of 
this idea we found to be mainly these : election ; mission to 
set judgment in the earth ; endowment for this mission " I 
have put My spirit upon him " ; and, finally, a certain strife 
involving suffering in fulfilling the mission " He shall not 
fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the 
earth : and the isles shall wait for his law." 

Now, it is to the last of these that we must draw special 
attention ; but we may briefly run over the others to see how 
they are realised more or less in Israel the mass. First, 
election. This lies at the basis of the very idea of servant. 
God chooses who shall serve Him. Israel was God's elect. 
Abraham was chosen, called from the ends of the earth. Of 
course, this predicate is applicable to the nation and church 
of Israel. It is both an ideal and an actual attribute, 
competently applied to Israel in its widest as well as its 
narrowest sense. Israel is son, and Israelites are sons. Israel 
is servant, and Israelites are servants. Israel is elect, and 

i Isa. 43 8 . - Isa. 59 10 . 3 Isa. 48 1 . 

4 Isa. 57 3 . 6 Isa. 50 6 . 



Israelites are elect ones. And, of course, election implies 
help and upholding, and also divine pleasure in the elect 
subject, " in whom My soul delighteth." God was pleased in 
Israel even when Israel sinned ; His mercy did not depart 
from her. 

Second, the mission and endowment. God chose the 
servant to serve Him ; but, of course, the chosen one must 
be made His servant, not being so before ; must be made 
obedient, being disobedient. The equipment for service is, 
in one word, endowment with the spirit of God : " I have 
put My spirit upon him : he shall bring forth judgment to 
the Gentiles." Now, this can be said of Israel. It is often 
said in the prophets of the people in general. Joel pro- 
phesies : " I will pour out My spirit on all flesh." We 
should explain one side of it thus : Israel is the bearer and 
medium of God's revelation. This is an essential element 
of the idea of Israel. It is one determination, even a chief 
one of this people. " What advantage then hath the Jew ? 
Much every way ; chiefly because that unto them were 
committed the oracles of God." l 

No doubt this side of Israel's idea was best realised in 
the prophetic order, or in the prophetic office ; and hence 
some have considered the servant to be the prophetic order. 
But while unquestionably the prophetic office of the servant is 
more largely insisted on than any other, and while also his 
sufferings are sometimes said to be those borne by him in 
executing his prophetic office, as especially in chap. 50 4ff - : 
" The Lord hath given me the tongue of the learners : He 
waketh mine ear to hear : and I was not rebellious, neither 
turned away back " ; yet there are other predications of the 
servant which imply that he is coextensive with all Israel, 
which this theory would exclude, and which show that the 
prophetic office or function is not exhaustive of the servant, 
but only one determination of that subject which is servant. 

1 Rom. 3 U -. 


The servant is Israel ; one side, a main side, of Israel's idea 
is as the revealer of God's truth. Hence Israel in its pro- 
phetic character will be called Servant, and the prophetic 
order may fairly be considered Israel's determination on this 

Now, it is but an extension of this when it is said to be 
part of the servant's mission to be the light of the Gentiles. 
The meaning of this seems to be that God's word and 
revelation will make Israel so luminous as to attract the 
Gentiles, who shall walk in this light, Israel's light in 
which she walks and which she casts, shall become the 
light in which they shall walk : " Arise, shine ; for thy 
light is come. . . . And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, 
and kings to the brightness of thy rising." l It is manifest that 
Israel from the first had a world-wide purpose to fulfil in its 
calling, as it was said to Abraham : " In thee shall all families 
of the earth be blessed." Now it may be quite true that this 
purpose has been fully realised in Christ, but it is quite 
possible that the prophet may have said it here of the mass 
Israel. Israel became the light of the Gentiles. What 
elements in Israel became so, or what individuals, need not 
be here matter of prophecy. It was Israel some elements 
in Israel Israel in that determination of it called prophetic. 
It may be that it was Christ. If so it was Israel, for He 
was an Israelite, of the seed of David according to the flesh, 
the seed of Abraham. It may be that it was through the 
instrumentality of His missionaries the apostles. If so, it 
was still Israel. They were all Israelites ; the greatest of 
them, the Apostle of the Gentiles, was an ' Hebrew of the 
Hebrews.' It was Israel Israelitish elements, Israelitish 
truth, Israelitish men. 

Indeed, this representation of the prophet has not yet 
been strictly fulfilled ; but so far as the Gentiles walk in 
light, it is in Israel's light. And it is possible that his very 

1 Isa. 60'- 3 . 


way of representing it may yet be true. That way is this, 
that the luminous elements in Israel so increase in brilliancy 
as to envelop all Israel in the light ; and that the Gentiles, 
attracted by this light of the united Israel, gather round her 
or towards her, as the more nebulous matter towards the 
nucleus and central light. It is certainly not impossible that 
this may yet be literally fulfilled. Seeing all the rays of 
light in the nation converged into a unity and point in Christ, 
who realised all the purposes of God with Israel' in Himself; 
and seeing He gathered around Him as missionaries, Jews, all 
of whom thus became lights to the Gentiles, but yet the 
nation was not gathered ; nor was the light then, nor is it 
now, national, only a thin band of light existing and running 
through the ages, called by the apostle the election of grace, 
it is certainly not impossible that this thin line of light 
may widen till it embrace the whole nation, which shall thus 
become the light of the world literally. It is not absurd to 
suppose that as the light gradually contracted from the 
prophecy of Israel to one point in Christ the Israelite, so 
it may gradually wax from that point so as to embrace the 
nation Israel again, which may thus form a luminous 
centre around which all the nations shall gather, according to 
the form in which the prophet in these chapters presents the 
conception. Of course, another side of endowment with the 
spirit was the life. But both knowledge and life are em- 
braced under the one term light. Indeed, the word know- 
ledge or law is exhaustive of salvation : " By his knowledge 
shall My righteous servant justify many " ; " The law shall go 
out from Mount Zion." 

Now comes the most difficult question, the suffering of 
the servant. And various questions rise before us ; as for 
example, Is it taught in these chapters that it was part of 
the servant's mission to suffer ? Or is the method of repre- 
sentation rather that he suffered in executing the other parts 
of his mission ? Again, is his suffering represented as being 


merely for the good of those whom it benefits ? or is the 
relation represented as closer, namely, that the suffering was 
really an atonement for the sins of others ? As to the first 
question, I do not think it is anywhere formally taught that 
the servant's mission was to suffer. Suffering was no part 
of his mission, yet it is considered as inevitably connected 
with his mission. His mission was to restore the tribes of 
Israel so as to be the light of the Gentiles, to plant a heaven 
and found an earth, and to say to Ziou, "Thou art my people." 1 

But, on the other hand, while this suffering is regarded 
as undergone in the execution of the servant's mission and 
from the servant's identification with the people, it is repre- 
sented as strictly vicarious and atoning, and not merely 
beneficial, or resulting in salvation ; that is, the sufferings 
due to the people's sins fell on him and were exhausted. 
He was among them, not himself subject to suffering as they 
were. He was involved in the suffering due to their sins ; 
whether it was that which they meantime were suffering or 
no, may be difficult to say. It seems greater ; for they 
wondered at its extent, and were shocked at it. His suffer- 
ing exhausted the penalty due to the sins, and the people 
were released. And a third question is, Are the sufferings 
endured those of an individual, or those of a class idealised 
and personified ? a question the answer to which may be 
difficult to give, considering that the difference between a 
person and a personification is scarcely to be detected. But, 
as before, we at least reach this conclusion, that on some 
element or other in Israel there fell sufferings which atoned 
for the sins of Israel, that Israel itself wrought out its own 
salvation : " The seed of the woman bruised the head of the 
serpent, which bruised His heel " ; 2 " As by man came death, 
by man came also the resurrection from the dead." 

The question, whether it was part of the servant's mission 
to suffer, or whether suffering was merely endured in fulfilling 
1 Isa. 51 16 . - Gen. 3 15 . 3 1 Cor. 15 21 . 


his mission, does not seem to possess the importance which is 
often attached to it. For it was the servant's mission to do 
what he did ; if he suffered, it was part of it to suffer. And 
if what he did was accomplished by suffering, no doubt that 
was the needful means to it. But on Old Testament grounds 
not theories but facts are to be looked for. And the passage 
says, " With his stripes we are healed." He was wounded, 
and they were healed ; his wounding was for their sins, and 
was the way to their healing. 

I do not think that in these chapters the suffering 
servant atones for the sins of the Gentiles. Eather the 
order is that he atones for the sins of Israel, who is thus 
restored ; and Israel restored becomes the light of the 
Gentiles. The Gentiles see the humiliation of the servant, 
and they then see his exaltation, and they submit them- 
selves to him so exalted. But their salvation is represented 
rather under the form of an enlightenment, Israel's under the 
form of an atonement. 

Now, it is the practice of Scripture in general to deal with 
concrete cases and apply its principles to them, principles 
which, though not applied by it further, are capable of further 
application. Thus Paul argues that Christ has redeemed us 
from the curse of the law. Now, it can hardly be doubted 
that the us are Jews, and the law is the Mosaic law. As it 
is said again, God sent forth His Son, made under the law, 
i.e. a Jew, to redeem them that were under the law, i.e. Jews, 
that we, i.e. Jews and Gentiles, might receive the adoption of 
children. But it is evident enough that what is said of the 
law here is said of it as law and not as Mosaic law ; and that 
though not here said of any other law such as the natural, 
and of those under it, such as the Gentile nations, yet the 
things here said being said of law, are true also of that 
natural law and of those under it. And in like manner, 
though the servant is said to atone for Israel only, yet it is 
for Israel who all, like sheep, had gone astray ; and so we 


may extend the principle to all who in like manner go 

Now, let me say a little on these three things just 
mentioned, namely, suffering, vicarious suffering, and the 
question of personal suffering, or the suffering of a class 
personified. As to the first, the suffering of God's servants 
in general, and of course of the servant, all Scripture is full 
of it. One of the most fruitful Messianic ideas, as it was the 
first, was that of enmity between the two seeds, entailing a 
conflict, ending in a victory. But the conflict entailed suffer- 
ing bruising, although but of the heel. Sin occasioned 
suffering to the servant in two ways : in the shape of opposi- 
tion from sin without, and in the way of divine chastisement 
on sin within. Wherever there was God's servant, there the 
evil world joined in conflict with him. It brought him into 
bondage in Egypt, into frequent subjugation in Palestine, into 
exile and political dissolution in Assyria and Babylon. And 
so individuals were subject to the persecutions of the wicked 
about them ; and though they gradually surmounted them, it 
was often with great loss and pain to themselves. So Joseph 
rose through conflict to peace. So David reached the kingdom. 
So Israel came into Canaan. So the Lord passed into the 
heavens. So the Church through much tribulation enters 
into glory. So the individual saint passes through a fight 
of afflictions to his rest. It is the law the law of service, 
verified in all servants, and most of all in the Servant. 

Again, suffering falls on the servant from his own imper- 
fections. The Egyptian bondage was of the nature of a 
chastisement ; those fiery tribes that hung on Israel and 
harassed his march in the wilderness, but took vengeance on 
his idolatries : the Philistines, the Assyrians, Nebuchadnezzar, 
were all instruments of chastisement in God's hand. Now, 
if we look at the condition of the servant in these chapters, 
it is one of suffering, whether the servant be all Israel or 
some element in Israel. This series of prophecies begins, 


" Comfort ye My people, and say that her warfare is 
accomplished." " But thou Israel, My servant, fear thou not, 
I will help thee." 1 

Moreover, when the mission of the servant to bring 
forth judgment to the Gentiles is first intimated, it is im- 
plied that the difficulties in the way will be severe : " He 
shall not fail nor be discouraged till he have set judgment 
in the earth." 2 And in chap. 49 the servant is introduced 
lamenting his little success, and ready to succumb to the 
difficulties he had to encounter : " Then I said, I have 
laboured in vain, I have spent rny strength for nought." 
Also in this chapter as well as in chaps. 52 and 53 the 
sufferings that fall upon the servant are inflicted both by 
his own people and by the nations, he is despised in soul, 
an abhorrence of the heathen, a servant of rulers ; 3 the last 
epithet at least indicating heathen oppression, which, of 
course, is commonly dwelt upon throughout the passage. 
In chap. 50 4ff - the suffering prophet is afflicted chiefly by 
his own people : " I gave my back to the smiters, and my 
cheek to them that pull out the hair." Thus in many 
ways the servant suffered. He suffered from the opposing 
world without, and from the untheocratic elements of his 
own people, who misunderstood him. 

As yet, however, there is hardly any approach to vicarious 
suffering. But an approach to it began to be made in two 
ways. First, all this taught the close connection between 
sin and suffering. The whole Jewish history was an inculca- 
tion of this lesson. Their frequent humiliation under their 
enemies, and at last the dissolution of the State, showed that 
suffering was the invariable consequence of sin. For the 
order was invariably this : The people sinned. Then the 
anger of God was kindled. Then He proceeded to chastise 
them by defeats, exiles, and such like. This process was too 
often repeated to be misunderstood, and too often expounded 

1 Isa. 41 8 . 2 Isa. 42 4 . 3 Isa. 49 7 . 


in the prophets not to be known. The process gives us three 
things, sin, anger of God, chastisement. But generally a 
fourth thing followed. By and by God's anger passed away, 
and He returned to His people. This return followed per- 
haps generally upon the people's repentance ; but the anger 
of God had passed away. There was a certain exhaustion 
of the divine wrath. The chastisement seemed enough to 
the mind of God, her iniquity is accepted ^2 nx"0. And 
restoration followed. 

And in these chapters of Isaiah it is not seldom said that 
God of His mercy saves them : " I am He that blotteth out 
thy transgressions." The doctrine is by no means that 
repentance saves them in the Old Testament any more than 
in the evangelical doctrine. The one may be a condition of 
the other, though not its cause. God is satisfied with the 
chastisement ; it is in His estimation enough. His anger 
goes away, His pity returns, and He redeems the people out 
of their misery. 

Even here we have not yet vicariousness, but we have 
the idea not only of suffering being a consequence of sin, but 
of an atonement for sin by suffering, of an exhaustion of 
wrath by chastisement. Indeed, the idea of chastising sins 
by sufferings seems to imply the idea of atoning for them by 
sufferings, unless the connection of sin and suffering be con- 
sidered a mere natural law, as burning follows too close an 
approach to the fire. There is no probability that any moral 
law is so, the administration of them being retained, so to 
speak, freely in God's hand. Here then we have an im- 
portant step in the direction of vicarious atonement, namely, 
the idea of the possibility of exhausting the effects of sin 
through suffering. This is one side of it. Both these things 
namely, that God is angry with sin, and, being angry, proceeds 
to inflict punishment for it on the sinner ; and, second, that 
the anger of God becomes exhausted after a certain infliction 
of punishment were taught as facts in the Old Testament. 


They were manifested many times in the history. It was 
taught that God must be angry with sin, but perhaps not 
that He must punish it. But the regularity with which He 
did so must have suggested the question whether there be 
not a principle in the nature of God constraining Him to 
punish sin. 

I do not know that we can go further than raise 
the same question still, even after all that has occurred in 
the history of redemption. There is a principle in His 
nature by which God must hate and be angry with sin, as 
He must love and be pleased with holiness. But as it is 
denied that He is under any obligation, unless He promises, 
to reward virtue, ought it not to be in like manner denied 
that He is under any obligation, unless He threatens, to 
punish sin, if punishment be aught else but anger and denial 
of fellowship ? I do not know that the things are on the 
same footing. I suggest the question whether they are 
not ? If they are, then we cannot pretend to go further in 
theologising than merely to appeal to facts, saying, Such is 
the constitution of things. Of course, the question is also 
raised, Is all God's punishment of sin in the Old Testament 
not mere correction ? Is it at all penal ? 

An approach to the other side of the question, namely, 
the suffering by one not the sinner, of the chastisement due to 
the sin, must have been made in many ways, although real 
vicarious suffering is perhaps not taught anywhere so explicitly 
as in Isa. 53. But when it is taught that the prophets in their 
mission endured persecution from the wickedness of those 
whom they sought to enlighten, and whose salvation they 
ultimately secured, in a sort of way the sins of those about 
them fell on them, and through their suffering actively these 
sins were removed. In like manner, when the prophets and 
other just men, who were unable to stem the tide of decay 
and uphold the State in its later years, were carried away into 
captivity, and suffered the troubles of exile in common with 


the sinful people, trouble more keenly felt by them than by 
untheocratic men, they were bearing not their own sins, but 
the sins of others. They were numbered with the transgress- 
ors. And when, by their efforts, they drew down additional 
oppression on themselves from the sinners about them, but 
yet succeeded in bringing about a restoration, here again 
they bore sins not their own, and here again by their suffer- 
ings others were healed. 1 

Still this is not strictly vicarious suffering, but it is an 
approach to it, a nearer approach than perhaps can be seen 
elsewhere. One does see the same even in ordinary life. For 
no good is gained without labour and pain. The discoveries 
that benefit the race, the inventions that advance civilisation 
and lighten labour, the explorations that open up unknown 
continents and pave pathways for commerce, are all effected 
at much cost, oftentimes at the forfeiture of life, to those 
who accomplish them, who thus suffer in behalf of mankind. 
Again, there is a nearer approach. The sufferings alluded to 
are scarcely connected with sin, except, at any rate, in a very 
general way. But there are many who enter directly into 
sufferings that come of evil and share them, and by taking 
them on themselves remove them. The parental instinct leads 
to unspeakable sacrifices ; love of country makes men lay down 
their lives in the nation's quarrel, or give themselves by vow 
for the people ; in a thousand ways suffering that comes from 
evil is entered upon by those who were free from, it, and 
being borne by them is lifted off those on whom it would 
naturally have fallen. This is something like vicarious 

1 One side of this process was very familiar to Israelitish thinkers, namely, 
one generation bearing the punishment of the sins of their progenitors : ; ' The 
fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge." God 
describes Himself as visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon their children. 
And the prophet says, "Our fathers sinned, and are not; and we hare borne 
their iniquities." 

But the other side, a succeeding generation saved or blessed by the suffer- 
ings of one prior to them, is perhaps not to be found iu Scripture if not in 
Isa. 53. 


suffering. And we can easily conceive the same thing 
suggested in Israel's history. There is a unity in a nation 
whereby the sins committed by any part of it falls upon the 
whole, and the righteousness of one part extends over all. 
The sins of the mass involved even the theocratic prophets in 
exile and suffering. And the generation that arose in exile 
suffered, though not for the sins it had committed, but as 
being involved in the consequences of the sins committed by 
its ancestors. But the time of release came. And the new 
returning generation might look back to the preceding 
sufferers, and feel that it was at the cost of their sufferings 
that it was restored, and that God's anger had been exhausted 
by the sufferings in exile of a generation more or less 
innocent. National unity involves the innocent in the ruin 
of the guilty, but it also brings about the redemption of the 
guilty through the sufferings of the innocent. 

Still all this hardly comes up to strict vicariousness. 
There were things in Israel's history which taught this idea 
more perfectly ; for example, in the history of Abraham's 
sacrificing his son, 1 he was commanded by God to offer a ram 
133 nnri instead of Ms son. Here, at least, one victim was 
accepted instead of another, the death of one creature 
instead of the death of another ; though we may have no 
warrant for saying that Isaac's sacrifice was of the nature of 
a sin-offering. Again, the whole sacrificial system taught 
the same truth of vicarious death and suffering on the one 
hand, and the connection of this suffering with sin on the 
other. And on more than one occasion in the history of 
Israel, as for example in Ex. 32, when the people worshipped 
the golden calf, God's vengeance fell on the people and 
decimated them ; and Moses prayed : " Now forgive them 
their sin, or else blot me out of Thy book," the meaning of 
which prayer is, as Kurtz says, " that God might accept the 
punishment inflicted upon those who had been executed 

1 Gen. 22 13 . 


already, as an expiation or covering for the same sin on the 
part of those who were still living ; and that, if this did not 
suffice, that He would take Moses' own life, the life of the 
innocent one, as a covering or expiation." And there can be 
no doubt that the idea of substitution and vicarious atonement 
was a prevalent one among the Jews in the time of Christ, 
since it comes out unmistakably in the declaration of Caiaphas 
" that it was expedient that one man should die for the 
people." l 

How, then, did the prophet represent the work of the 
servant ? In the 42nd chapter, as we have shown, the 
servant is not an individual, even though the evangelist 2 
rightly sees a reflection of the servant's character and motive 
in those of our Lord, when, fearing a collision with the 
authorities, and dissatisfied with the mistaken enthusiasm of 
His followers, He withdrew Himself. He shunned violent 
encounters with His enemies, and He disliked the loud 
applause of His friends. The whole prophecy of the servant 
is fulfilled in Christ, not in the superficial sense that certain 
phrases may be applied to Him, but in the far deeper sense, 
that the whole spirit and scope of the prophet's conceptions 
are verified in Him. " The flickering flame He shall not 
quench," might serve as the motto of the life and work of 
Him who came to seek and to save that which was lost. It 
was not a dead, but a dying, world into which He flung 
Himself. A dead world would have had no attractions for 
Him ; it was the struggling life among men that drew Him, 
for virtue and goodness is the love of life. 

But though the servant be here represented as a person 
in his intercourse with other persons among the heathen, 
it can hardly be doubted that the prophet's thought is 
national. It is the future relation of ' the people ' Israel to 
other peoples that he describes. The grand thought has now 
taken possession of statesmen of the higher class, that the 

1 John 18 14 . 2 Matt. 12 17 ' 21 . 


point of contact between nation and nation need not be the 
sword ; that the advantage of one people is not the loss of 
another, but the gain of mankind ; that the land where 
Freedom has grown to maturity, and is worshipped in her 
virgin serenity and loveliness, should nurse the newborn 
babe in other homes ; and that the strange powers of the 
mind of man and the subtle activities of his hand should not 
be repressed, but fostered in every people, in order that the 
product may be poured into the general lap of the race. 
This idea is supposed to be due to Christianity. And, 
immediately, it is ; but it is older than Christianity. It is 
found in this prophet. And it is not new even in him, 
for a prophet presumably a century and a half his senior 
had said : " The remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of 
many peoples as a dew from Jehovah, as showers upon the 

grass." l 

Similar teaching as to the work which the servant of 
Jehovah is destined to accomplish is given in chap. 49 ; but 
the climax is reached, as already indicated, in the most 
important passage of all, chap. 52 13 -53 ; regarding which, 
the question was put long, long ago : " Of whom speaketh 
the prophet thus ? Of himself, or of some other man ? " 
Certainly not of himself; and as certainly, therefore, of 
some other man. Behind this answer, however, the further 
question still remains, whether was it of a real or of an 
ideal man ? Of a man of flesh and blood, who, as the pro- 
phet foresaw, would appear in the world ? or of an ideal man, 
in one sense the creation of the prophet's own mind, though 
in another sense existing from the moment of Israel's call 
and creation down all its history, and to exist for ever ? 
The question, therefore, is not whether the prophet's great 
figure of the servant has been verified in Christ. On that, 
all except Jews are agreed. It is the traditional interpreta- 
tion of the Jewish Church that the Messiah is here predicted, 

1 Mic. 5 7 . 


and of the Christian Church that in Christ the words have 
been fulfilled. Nor is the question whether the spirit of 
Christ, which was in the prophet, led his mind to the great 
thoughts which he expresses with a view to Christ and in 
preparation for Him. Over this also there need be no 
dispute. The ideas regarding the suffering of one who was 
the servant of the Lord, of its being because of the sins of 
the people, and of its effect in taking away the people's sins 
and mediating their redemption, all these ideas were 
assuredly given out here with a view to Christ, and in 
preparation for Him in whom they have been verified. 

On the other hand, it cannot be even doubted that, in 
many parts of his prophecy, the writer calls Israel the servant 
of the Lord, and that this nomenclature of the prophet him- 
self must be our starting-point, and regulate in some degree 
our conclusions; for it is inconceivable that the author 
should express different ideas by the same term, servant, or 
that he should apply the same epithet to wholly different 
subjects. Undoubtedly, however, there is a certain double 
use of the term. The people Israel, as a people under 
certain conceptions, is the servant of the Lord. But it is 
never Israel, as a people like other peoples, that is servant, 
but as the people chosen of the Lord and endowed by Him 
with true knowledge of Himself, and as having His word 
incarnated in it in order to be a light to the nations of the 
earth. Israel, the servant, is not all Israel, that is, not 
Israel as embracing all Israelites, but that in Israel which 
realises the ideal in Israel, which may and must be called 
Israel. It is this element in Israel which is servant. 
Whatever its number be, be it many or few, it realises the 
conception of Israel ; and this name, therefore, belongs to it. 

Israel, the servant, is frequently in these chapters con- 
trasted, not with another who is servant, for there are not 
two servants of the Lord, but with Israelites, with the 
tribes of Jacob and the ' preserved ' of Israel. And when 


the servant's work results in the opening of blind eyes in 
order to the restoration of the land, and in the bringing 
back of the tribes scattered in all lands, 1 then the individuals 
are represented in chap. 53 as looking back from their 
position of restoration and redemption, and confessing their 
former want of faith and little estimation of the servant of 
the Lord, who, they now see, suffered for their offences, and 
bore the chastisement of their peace the chastisement that 
secured their peace, i.e. the salvation which they now enjoy. 

In a word, the prophet, looking back upon the history of 
Israel with its continuous record of suffering, has made these 
profound moral generalisations regarding it. In order to the 
redemption and restoration of the whole mass of the nation, 
its sins must be borne ; and this has been done through the 
suffering of the servant. An Israel within Israel, a divine 
element which the genius of the prophet idealises into a 
Being, a true Israel, has borne, in suffering and sorrow, 
the sins of the mass. This is to him the meaning of Israel's 
sad history. Nay, such a history was necessary to the 
restoration of the whole people and of the race. Hence it is 
not any particular element in Israel that bears the sins of 
the others ; it is the ideal Israel that bears the sins of the 

It is to be noted that when the people Israel is called, 
servant, it is always conceived as a unity, never as made 
up of individuals. It is not the individuals even together 
that are the servant ; it is the people, conceived not merely 
as a unity, but almost as a person. Hence it is always 
addressed in the 2nd sing, rnasc., ' Thou Israel, My servant.' 
When the prophet addresses the people Israel, considered 
as a nation made up of individuals, he uses the 2nd pers. 

From the preceding remarks it becomes evident that 
what gives rise to the twofold use of the term ' servant, 

1 Isa. 49 8ff - 


or rather to its use in a wider as well as a narrower application, 
while the conception itself remains the same, is just the 
antithesis that always exists between the idea and the 
reality, between the conception of the ideal servant and 
the condition of the individuals or masses of the people. 
Nevertheless, I do not consider that the servant is a 
collective, personified and idealised, that is, the pious Israel 
of the nation in Babylon. This way of stating the point 
seems to me to begin at the wrong end, to put that first 
which should be second. To the prophet the conception 
or idea of ' servant ' is always first ; those in whom the 
idea is incarnated are second. The prophet does not first look 
at those who might be called the spiritual Israel, and then 
idealise them, and call them the servant of Jehovah. On 
the contrary, the idea is always first. In other words, the 
prophet does not idealise the actual ; he actualises an ideal. 
He does not rise up from a spiritual Israel to the idea of 
the servant of Jehovah ; he comes down from his idea to 
an actual, which more or less corresponds to it. 

The servant is not a collective personified, though he may 
be a conception incarnated ; and this incarnation of the con- 
ception may have been seen in the Exile, especially on one side 
of it, that of suffering and humiliation, but not in the Exile 
only. There was an Israel within Israel, all through its 
history. This is rather the personification of the concep- 
tions which go to form the servant. Still this personification, 
made up out of the divine forces within Israel, is treated 
by the prophet as a real Being, a Being existing throughout 
the whole history of Israel with a moral self-identity. This 
Israel was, no doubt, at all times represented by Israelites. 
It was not a mere conception. There were always individuals 
nearly true to it. The abstraction had embodiment in saints 
and prophets, in confessors and martyrs for the truth. To 
the prophet, therefore, the meaning of the history was the 
redemption of the people through the bearing of their sins by 


the servant, and in no other way could the history have reached 
its predetermined end. Thus the prophet mused, as he con- 
ceived himself standing at the end of Israel's history before the 
last momentum of it, the restoration and the glory. But Israel's 
history had not reached its end in his day. It was an ideal 
end that he saw. Yet if we put ourselves at the real end, 
the real will correspond with the ideal. We are already able 
to see his conceptions verified. The necessity of the redemp- 
tive history, that sins should be borne, has been satisfied. 
One truly corresponding to the prophet's ideal Being, the 
divine in Israel incarnated, sinless, and suffering for the 
people, has taken their sins away, and brought about a full 

Perhaps I may be excused if I make one practical remark. 
The question who the servant is, is one that greatly divides 
scholars. But suppose we conclude, as we have just done, 
that in the mind of the prophet the servant was not a future 
person, but an idealising and personification of the conception 
of the people Israel, though with the accessory notion that this 
conception was already realised in fact, and incarnated in saints 
and prophets and martyrs, how should we deal with the passage 
in our practical and public exposition of it ? Now, it would 
certainly be very misleading to ordinary minds, if we said that 
the servant of the Lord is the people of Israel. It would not 
only be misleading, but really untrue. Because, in the first 
place, the servant is not the people Israel as a people, but as a 
divine creation for a great object, namely, to be His servant. 
This holds even when the servant is spoken of in the mildest 
and most general way. And, secondly, even this is not all, 
because the conception is sometimes narrowed, as we have 
shown, so as to make the servant the true representation or 
incarnation of this conception, put in opposition to the mass 
of Israel as individuals. Thus not without many limitations 
could it be said that the servant is Israel. And, finally, the 
prophet's conception has now received fulfilment in one in 


whom his idea has been fully, or more than fully, realised. 
And this, undoubtedly, is the practical truth most appropriate 
to hearers of the word of God. 

At the same time, we ought to feel under obligation, 
as interpreters of Scripture to others, to make some effort to 
explain what seems to us the prophet's own thought, and 
therefore the amount of truth he was commissioned to teach 
the people of God in his own age. His thought actually 
embraces, as we have seen, all the main Christian ideas of 
atonement and bearing of sins, through that sinless element in 
Israel which was a divine creation in Israel. Hence the 
prophet was able so to present his thought as to make the 
people of God of that age feel that they themselves had a 
present salvation through the Lord, their Redeemer, the Holy 
One of Israel. 



THERE are several events in the development of the Christian 
Church which are often alluded to in Scripture, and which 
cannot be passed over in silence by any one who undertakes 
to give an account of Old Testament prophecy. There is, first 
of all, the coming again of the Lord, an event which certainly 
bulked much more largely in the imagination and faith of the 
early Church than it does in ours. Again, allusion is often 
made to the Church attaining to a state of great prosperity 
and influence. This state of prosperity is sometimes described 
with reference to the internal condition of the Church : " My 
people shall be all righteous " ; " Arise, shine, for thy light 
is come ; and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.' 
Sometimes it is with reference to its influence on the world : 
" The Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the 
brightness of thy rising"; and sometimes with reference to 
the powers of evil which seduce the Church and mankind, 
and whose activity shall then be greatly curbed. Satan is 
represented as bound with a great chain. With regard to 
the time during which this blessed state shall endure, in 
one passage l the only very specific one it is said to be 
a thousand years. " He laid hold on the Dragon, that old 
serpent which is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a 
thousand years. . . . And they (the saints) lived and reigned 
with Christ a thousand years." Hence the name popularly 
given to this period, the millennium. 

1 Rev. 20 1 ' 7 . 


Further, there is no doubt that in the Scriptures, both of 
the Old Testament and the New, the highest condition of the 
Church's prosperity is connected with the coming of Christ. 
So far as the Old Testament is concerned, the one comin^ 


predicted there has now parted asunder into two, historically 
the first and the second coming. Then, so far as the New is 
concerned, it is disputed whether the highest descriptions of 
the prosperity of the Church refer to its final or to its mil- 
lennial condition. Or, again, whether the coming of Christ, 
which in Revelation precedes the millennium, be real or 
figurative. In other words, the point in dispute is whether 
the real second coming of the Lord precedes the millennium 
or follows it. Those who hold the former are called premil- 
lenarians, or, more shortly, millenarians. Put alternatively, 
the point in dispute is this : whether, when you are sure that 
it is the real unfigurative second coming that is spoken of, the 
descriptions of felicity that follow belong to the final perfect 
state of the Church, and not to the millennial comparative 
perfection; or whether, when you are sure that the comparative 
millennial perfection is spoken of, the coming of Christ, that 
is said to precede it, be figurative and not literal. 

In our day millenarian views usually accompany belief 
in the restoration of the Jews to Canaan ; but in the early 
Church, which was, in general, millenarian, belief in the 
restoration of the Jews to their own land does not seem 
to have been at all prevalent. Indeed, it seems hardly to 
have been known. The early Church believed at least 
most of her distinguished teachers believed, though Justin 
Martyr informs us that many did not share the belief that 
Jerusalem should be rebuilt, and that Christ should return 
to reign there personally a thousand years in the midst of 
the Church. But the inhabitants of this restored Jerusalem 
were not thought to be Jews, but Christians, along with the 
saints of ihe first resurrection. The Jews had no hio-b 


position in the opinion of the early Church. Indeed, the 


1 1th chapter of Eomans seems expressly written to guard 
against the error that had arisen, it would appear, even thus 
early, among the Gentile converts, that the Jews had, by 
their unbelief, for ever forfeited the chance of salvation. In 
those early times what was most prominent was the unbelief 
and intractableness of the Jews ; the Church had not before it 
what is now to us so imposing and wonderful, and suggestive 
of a deep providential design with them, their continued 
severance from, and refusal to amalgamate with, other nations 
of the earth, as Balaam foretold : 

" Lo, it is a people that dwells alone, 
And it shall not be reckoned among the nations." l 

Such a history could not yet present itself to their minds. 
And, without doubt, this singular fact has greatly influenced 
modern speculations regarding the Jews, and helped inter- 
preters in many cases to meanings they might not otherwise 
have reached. 

At all events, the attitude of the Church, both towards 
the pre-naillennial personal advent of the Saviour and this 
restoration of the Jews, has altered. Now, the Church does 
not as a body believe in the pre-inillennial advent, nor does 
it as a body believe in the restoration ; but while in the 
ancient Church most believed in the pre-millennial advent 
who did not believe nor dream of the territorial restoration, 
many now hold the restoration who deny the pre-milleunial 
coining ; while, of course, the majority, or perhaps all, of those 
who are millenarians are also restorationists. 

The state of opinion on the question is something like 
this : 

1. Some hold that there will not be even any national 
conversion of Israel as such. The world, indeed, shall yet 
be converted ; that is, all the world extensively, though not 
pervasively, and, of course, the -Tews like other people, or, 

J Num. 23 9 . 


if the nationality should still exist, like other peoples ; but it 
will be a conversion merely of individuals, though the in- 
dividuals converted may amount to nearly the whole nation. 
In other words, nationality, whether of Jew or Gentile, is no 
more an element in God's dealing with men ; in Christianity, 
conversion is of individuals, and apart from nationality. 

2. Others go a step further, and maintain that there will 
be a national conversion of the Jews at some future time, 
when in a body, or with a unanimity fairly to be characterised 
as national, one element of the dispersion being in com- 
munication with another, they shall accept Christianity, and 
publicly and in common renounce Judaism. But while this 
shall surely be, there will not be, or at least there need not 
be, and will not be as an essential part of this movement, any 
return to the laud of Canaan. Scripture predicts the con- 
version, but is silent on the restoration. What movements 
and migrations there may be among the nations, what 
favourable opportunities for again occupying Canaan may 
arise through complications of the East and West, and the 
inevitable dissolution of the Turkish empire and its con- 
version to the faith of Christ, cannot with any certainty be 
predicted or denied. These events, however, are part of the 
providence of God like other national movements, and are no 
essential elements in the development of Christianity, and 
therefore find no place in prophecy. It may be that the 
Jews will occupy Canaan before conversion, or it may be 
they will occupy it when converted ; but their occupation of 
it has no meaning as an act in the great drama of salvation. 
The difference between this view and the last is that this 
considers God's dealings with the people still to be national, 
there is a national rejection, and there will be a national 
receiving again. And this view is thought both to be 
necessary in order to a fair interpretation of such Scripture 
language as that in the llth of Komans, and to afford larger 
scope for the exhibition of the goodness and severity of 


God, and the depth of the riches both of His wisdom and 

3. A third opinion takes a step still further in advance. 
According to this view, there will be at some period in the 
Church's history yet future, both a conversion of the Jews 
and a restoration of them to their own land. This is 
predicted in Scripture, and will therefore surely come to 
pass. This prediction is one prediction, and not two. 
Scripture does not predict that the Jews shall be converted 
and also that they shall be restored, as if the two things were 
independent : it predicts conversion and restoration as one 
complex event, because the one is the inevitable consequence 
of the other, the two having been inseparably connected in 
God's covenant with Abraham. Possession of Canaan is an 
essential element of that covenant ; and when, on the side of 
the people, its conditions are observed, then on the side of 
God, all its provisions shall be fulfilled. For the covenant 
runs : " I will establish My covenant with thee and thy seed 
after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, 
to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And 
I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land 
wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Cannan, for an 
everlasting possession ; and I will be their God." l Of course, 
besides this great fundamental principle, there are many 
express predictions in the Old Testament, and some in the 
New, that the Jews as a nation shall occupy their ancient 
land. But while this must be held, nothing more is held. 
No fragment of Judaism shall be restored, no rite, no sacrifice, 
no symbol, no feast, no pilgrimage. They that worship in 
this Jerusalem and in this Canaan will worship in spirit and 
in truth. This view adds one element to the former, which 
admitted permanence of nationality ; this throws in the 
addition of the permanent heritage. And it can be easily seen 
that it will not be easy to maintain the halfway position of 

1 Gen. 17 7!r -. 


admitting the nationality only. Because, on the one hand, 
the distinction of the nationality implies a distinct place of 
abode, and the preservation of the nationality, as an element 
of the redemptive treatment of Israel, makes probable the 
preservation of the former heritage, because Christianity deals 
no longer with nations, but with individuals. 

4. Finally, some hold that there will not merely be a 
national conversion of the Jews and a national restoration 
of them to Canaan, but that the restored nation will occupy 
a place of greater glory in the kingdom of Christ than other 
peoples. They will exercise a kind of hegemony over the 
nations, and be the mediators between the Lord and His 
other people, as it is said : " Strangers shall stand and feed 
your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen 
and vinedressers. But ye shall be named the priests of the 
Lord : men shall call you the ministers of our God." l And 
some think that the city and temple shall be rebuilt, and all 
the glories of the ancient ceremonial re-established. 

Now, this may seem an extravagant position to take up, 
but those who go so far as to advocate restoration to Canaan 
are not unnaturally driven into it by two roads. First, there 
are prophecies in the Old Testament that predict a restitu- 
tion of the temple ceremonial with as much explicitness as 
the restoration to Canaan is predicted in others. Not to 
mention the extended prophecy regarding the restored temple 
in the end of Ezekiel, Zechariah predicts that " the nations 
shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord 
of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles." 2 Those, 
therefore, who advocate return to Canaan on the ground of 
the literalness of prophecy, will find their principles carrying 
them to this extreme. And, secondly, if the Jewish nationality 
be still conserved and a place appointed them in Canaan, all 
as parts of God's great redemptive work and not as parts of 
His providential government of the nations, some redemptive 
3 Isa. 61 5 . 2 Zech. 14 16 . 


meaning must be found for this restored Israel. "What 
function do they now, in their visible compact position, 
exercise in the Church, when the kingdoms of the nations 
have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ ? 
Their distinctive redemptive position naturally suggests some 
redemptive sphere of influence. And thus the supremacy 
which many advocate over the other peoples is naturally 
arrived at. Hence it appears that the question is encompassed 
with difficulty. If you occupy the first position, you feel you 
are hardly doing justice to the representations of Scripture ; 
and if you abandon it, you may find yourself driven from one 
position to another, till you find rest only in the last. 

Perhaps the question, whether the Jews shall be restored 
to their own land, is of much more importance than the 
answer to it. No doubt, if we were able certainly to answer 
in the affirmative that they shall, that answer would open up 
to us very wonderful views of God's redemptive providence 
and His manner of dealing with men, and with this people in 
particular ; and it would also lead to very attractive specula- 
tions as to the part this restored people might play in a 
regenerated world, and amidst a Christianity of mankind 
almost universal. But to us the question of the restoration 
becomes of importance, because it requires us to consider the 
principles on which an answer, if returned at all, can be 
justly returned ; for it is certain that such diverse answers 
as have just been given cannot have arisen from identical 
principles of interpretation. Hence we must, first of all, 
endeavour to secure a firm footing somewhere. 

Now, if we open the Old Testament anywhere, particularly 
in the prophetical books, there is hardly a passage which 
speaks of Israel, and promises redemption or any future 
blessing, which does not predict for them restoration to their 
own land. Even in the Pentateuch we read : " If then their 
uncircumcised heart be humbled (when I have brought them 
into the land of their enemies), and they then accept of the 


punishment of their iniquity: then will I remember My 
covenant with Jacob ; and also My covenant with Isaac, and 
also My covenant with Abraham will I remember ; and I will 
remember the laud." 1 And in Jeremiah : " Behold, the days 
come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous 
Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper . . . and the 
days come, saith the Lord, that they shall no more say, The 
Lord liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of 
the land of Egypt ; but, The Lord liveth, which led the seed 
of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from 
all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall 
dwell in their own land." 2 Such passages are both numerous 
and distinct. They predict in the most unmistakable manner 
the restoration of Israel to Canaan at some time in the 
Messianic age. 

This age is not often, if ever, considered an extended 
period, but a point at which the king who reigns in 
righteousness appears. Of course, as this king has appeared 
without bringing in this happy result, it is now connected 
literally by many with his second appearing, while others 
still connect it with the appearance that has taken place, of 
which it shall yet be the consequence. But this question of 
the time, in the Messianic age, of Israel's restoration is not, 
at present, of importance ; it is the fact of it. 

Now Isaiah predicts as follows : " As the new heavens 
and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before 
Me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain. 
And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to 
another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh 
come to worship before Me, saith the Lord." 3 But surely it 
is enough, in answer to this, to refer to the principles enun- 
ciated in such Epistles as those to the Galatians and the 
Hebrews. The latter intimates that these things were a figure 
for the time then present, but Christ being come, an High 

1 Lev. 2G W -. 2 Jer. 23 s - 8 . 3 Isa. <5G~. 


Priest of good things to come, through the greater and more 
perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, neither by the blood 
of goats and calves, but by His own blood entered in once for 
all into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption. 1 
And the former teaches that Christ, who was formerly fore- 
shadowed in the ceremonies, having now come in person, 
these ceremonies are now not merely empty husks, but even 
the practice of them is positively evil. Thus, one large 
deduction has to be made from the literality of such 
prophecies. They predict the glories of the future worship 
in the form of the glorious worship of the past. 

This stripping away of the ceremonial will be allowed by 
most. But it is evident that the events of history show that 
another large deduction from the literality of such predictions 
of Israel's return must be made. Isaiah, in his llth chapter, 
predicts that God shall gather together the dispersed of 
Judah, and they shall fly upon the shoulders of the Philis- 
tines ; they shall lay their hand upon Edom and Moab, and 
the children of Ammon shall obey them. Isaiah predicts 
the return of Israel as taking place in the relations of the 
world and the nations then existing. These relations have 
long ago altered, and the return has not taken place. Shall 
these relations be restored again ere their return ? Shall the 
Philistines dwell again on the west, and Moab and Edom on 
the south, and the empire of Assyria rise again into splendour 
on the east ? Some say this shall be ; and some refuse to go 
so far, contenting themselves with the statement that the day 
will declare. 

Such reasoning may, not unjustly, be called the insanity 
of literalism. It may, however, be said the names are good 
for the lands. But what have mere lands to do with such 
things ? It is always of men that Scripture speaks, of 
peoples, of nationalities of a certain spirit and type. It may 
then be said that the Moabs and Edoms of the future will 

1 Ileb. 9 llf -. 


bring back the restored Israel, or be their subjects. But 
such a principle, according to which Edom becomes the mere 
wicked foe of Israel, seems to turn Israel also into the mere 
Church, and her restoration to Canaan into mere restitution 
of, and investiture into, the privileges of God's people. And, 
consequently, by thus surrendering Moab and Edom, we lose 
possession not only of the restoration of Israel to Canaan, 
but of Israel itself. The prophecies in the Old Testament 
that speak of Israel evaporate in our hands, all that remains 
being some promises regarding the Church in the ages to 
come. But this is felt to be extravagant. And the result 
seems to come into conflict with the reasoning of St. Paul 
in Kom. II 26 . Great obscurity, it is true, hangs over the 
apostle's method of quoting this passage, and the way he 
reads it. In the original it is : " And the Kedeemer shall 
come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in 
Jacob." l The only words the same in both are Zion and 
Jacob ; but that is enough for our argument. 

Here, therefore, we seem at last to get some sure footing. 
Any hermeneutic which goes so far as to eliminate from the 
prophecies of the Old Testament which refer to New Testament 
times, the natural race of Abraham, seems to go against the 
methods of interpretation applied by the apostles. It may 
be contrary to New Testament principles to make these 
prophecies refer to that race alone ; but what seems needful 
to a fair acceptance of the statements, both of the Old and the 
New Testaments, is the theory that the Israel spoken of in 
the Old is the Church begun and permanently established 
in that race. The name ' Israel ' cannot be idealised into 
the abstraction ' Church ' ; it is the historic, real, material 
body, whose identity is continuous, and which, being founded 
in this race, is always regarded as including the Israelites. 
They are the root, not merely as human beings, and because 
some men must be the beginning of a Church, that is a 

1 Isa. 59-. 


modern way of thinking unfamiliar to Scripture, but as that 
race ; their history is a series of facts of eternal worth and 

God founded a Church in Abraham. He made him the 
father of the faithful ; and not as one man from among men, 
but as what he was, distinctively from other men. These re- 
demptive acts, done in connection with this race, were done 
once for all. God did not do the same acts over again with 
any other race, for example, at the founding of the New 
Testament Church ; nor did He do these acts for the seed of 
Abraham with the design of their influence being of limited 
duration ; nor did He ever undo the acts. These redemptive 
acts laid hold of this race, never to let them go. Certainly, 
there are passages in Scripture that seem to contradict such 
a view as this, and to imply that in Christ there is no such 
distinction as Jew and Greek. But, before considering these 
statements, I must draw attention to that passage where the 
Apostle Paul is formally discussing the question of Israel's 
rejection. In Bom. II 1 " 10 the apostle repudiates the idea that 
God has cast off the Jews from all share in the Messianic 
salvation, supporting his a priori repugnance to such a thought 
by adducing plain facts showing that it was not so, and that, 
concealed under the general strong tide of national unbelief, 
there ran a stream of individual faith, keeping up, as in the 
time of Elijah, the continuity and place of the nation in the 
covenant, and that thus there was no casting away of the 
Jew, as Gentile Christians were supposing. 

Then, in vv. n ~ 16 , Paul proceeds to make some profound 
statements as to what is actually meant by the stumbling 
of the Jew. The disbelief of the Jew was to be but 
temporary in comparison with other things in his history, 
just like the stumbling over some obstacle of a man who yet 
does not actually fall. And the purpose of it was the in- 
bringing of the Gentiles, and its temporal limit the accom- 
plishment of this. Thus the order of events should be: 


rejection of the Jew in order to the fulness of the Gentiles ; 
fulness of the Gentiles in order to the receiving again of the 
Jew ; and, finally, the receiving of the Jew, and then life from 
the dead. But the passage does not deal much with the 
means or agencies employed by God for bringing these great 
results about. The chain of evolution is regarded by the 
apostle more as that of God's own activity for the display of 
His mercy and wisdom, than with respect to the means He 
employs on earth to fulfil His high purposes. The rejection 
of the Jew, or the rejected Jew, does not become the means 
of enriching the Gentiles. That may have been, but is not 
alluded to here. The Gentiles brought in do not become the 
means or the instruments of bringing back the Jew. The 
operations are lifted up into the sphere of God's pure personal 
operation. God rejects the Jew and enriches the Gentiles ; 
yet such is the wonderfulness of God's relation to the Jews, 
that rejection of them becomes the riches of the world. The 
events are connected according to the principles of grace. 
When the world is reconciled, then the Jews are brought 
back ; but the reconciled world is not the means of bringing 
back the Jew, except in this way, that the Jews, God's 
people, are thereby provoked to jealousy by those who were 
not a people, but now also are. The Jew is brought back, 
and then is life from the dead. But the Jew brought back 
is not the cause or the means of life from the dead, except in 
this way, that when God is doing an act of mercy to His 
people, some inconceivable blessing must be connected with it 
to the world in general. The judgment of the Jew was the 
mercy of the Gentile ; the casting away of them was the 
reconciling of the world. What can their mercy be, and 
their receiving again, but life from the dead ? What is 
there, then, to be but the blessed resurrection life ? 

Finally, the apostle having already, by anticipation, 
affirmed the receiving again of the Jew, returns to it, and 
from v. 25 onward directly maintains it. " I would not, 


brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest 
ye should be wise in your own conceits ; that blindness in 
part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles 
be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved : as it is 

There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer ; 
He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.' 

This purpose bears upon the way of God in salvation, and 
illustrates it, making it very glorious. He makes the Gentile 
owe his salvation to the Jew, and again He makes the Jew 
owe his salvation to the Gentile ; and, above all, He shows 
the salvation of both to be of grace ; v. 30 : " For as ye (the 
Gentiles) in times past have not believed God, yet have now 
obtained mercy through the unbelief of these : even so have 
these also now not believed, that through the mercy shown to 
you they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded 
all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all. the 
depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of 
God ! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways 
past finding out ! " 

We must now, however, consider a little more closely 
vv. n ~ 15 and v. 26 . What these verses say about the Jews 
is this : first, their rejection is but partial " Blindness is 
happened to Israel in part " ; second, it is but temporary 
it is until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in, and so all 
Israel shall be saved ; third, their temporary rejection is but 
a roundabout way illustrative of the grace of God to 
their final salvation. For their rejection becomes the salva- 
tion of the Gentiles. This salvation provokes them to jealousy 
by them that were not a people, but are now the people of 
God ; and they return, and are saved. But of particular 
interest is what these verses say of the Gentiles, and the 
bearing on them of Israel's rejection and receiving again. 

] Rom. II 26 . 


First, by Israel's trespass salvation is come unto the Gentiles. 
We know how that occurred. Israel refused to hear. The 
early preachers everywhere turned to the Jew first. They 
began at Jerusalem. But they were everywhere met with 
hatred and persecution. And because Israel put away the 
gospel of God's grace from them, the missionaries of the 
cross turned to the Gentiles. Their diminishing was the 
riches of the Gentiles. But what the apostle is preaching 
throughout these chapters is not the rejection of the Jews, 
but their receiving again; not their diminishing, but their 
fulness. The scope of his argument is that their rejection 
is partial, temporary, and, rightly considered, only the means 
to their receiving again. And he who preaches thus is the 
apostle of the Gentiles. And it might seem an anomaly 
that the apostle of the Gentiles should preach the conversion 
of the Jews ; for it was the rejection of the Jew that was the 
riches of the Gentiles. 

But, so far from its being an anomaly in an apostle of 
the Gentiles to preach the receiving again of the Jew, he 
is, by that very preaching, most of all showing himself 
to be the true Apostle of the Gentiles : " I am speaking 
to you Gentiles ; and inasmuch as I am the apostle of the 
Gentiles, I magnify mine office." The doctrine of the receiv- 
ing again of the Jews and their fulness is, most of all, the 
gospel to the Gentile. Nowhere does Paul feel himself so 
profoundly speaking good news to the Gentiles as when pro- 
claiming to them the fulness of the Jews. For if, by their 
trespass, salvation came to the Gentiles, if the diminishing 
of them be the riches of the Gentiles ; how much more their 
fulness ? If the rejection of them be the reconciling of the 
world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the 
dead ? What is the force of this reasoning ? The reasoning 
is : If the sin of the Jew is the salvation of the Gentile, 
what shall the faith of the Jew be ? The rejection by God 
of the Jew was the reconciling of the world, what shall the 
3 1 


receiving of him again by God be ? Wherein lies the force 
of this ? The argument is usually held to be this, or something 
to this effect : If, when the Jews disbelieved, the Jewish 
apostles and evangelists turned to the Gentiles, and with 
such blessed effects as we know ensued, what effects may we 
suppose shall ensue, when this people becomes a nation of 
missionaries to the world ? or what wonderful effects on the 
Gentile world shall the spectacle of their conversion produce ? 
Shall there not be a universal quickening, a simultaneous 
rising up of the Gentile world in spiritual power and strength, 
a thing like life from the dead ? 

Now, this does not seem to me to be precisely what the 
passage means. For such a meaning seems scarcely consistent 
either with the apostle's statement of the time that the blind- 
ness of Israel is to endure, or with the magnitude of the terms 
in which he describes the effects which this temporary blind- 
ness exerted upon the Gentile world. For he expressly affirms 
that the blindness which has happened to Israel in part shall 
continue until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in (v. 25 ); 
and this expression ' fulness ' of the Gentiles cannot have 
a different sense from the expression ' fulness ' of the Jews 
(v. 12 ). There the expression denotes the mass of the Jewish 
nation, as distinguished from that small remnant now believ- 
ing. And ' fulness ' of the Gentiles must mean the ' mass ' 
of the Gentiles, the plenitude of Gentile believers, all the 
faithful that shall be from the Gentile world. And the terms 
in which the effect of the rejection of Israel upon the Gentile 
world is described lead to the same conclusion. Their tres- 
pass is the ' salvation ' of the Gentiles. Their diminishing is 
the ' riches ' of the Gentiles. Their rejection is the ' recon- 
ciling ' of the world. These terms are too large to be used 
of a mere offering of the gospel to the Gentile world; they 
describe the universal acceptance of it. 

It seems certain, therefore, that the apostle teaches 
that the unbelief of the Jews shall endure until the whole 


heathen world be evangelised, and be truly obedient to 
the faith ; that it is this imposing sight of a believing 
Gentile world that shall convert them, and that their conver- 
sion shall be life from the dead. This last expression, there- 
fore, ' life from the dead,' cannot mean spiritual quickening 
except in a very particular sense ; it cannot describe any 
converting effect or result produced among the Gentiles, for 
their fulness is already ere now come in. The expression 
must be taken literally, life from the dead, the resurrection 
life. That life will, no doubt, be a spiritual quickening ; the 
resurrection itself will perhaps be due to the gradual rising 
in power of the spiritual life in each soul ; and one can 
hardly imagine to what extent the receiving again of the 
Jews, both as a public spectacle, and as a spiritual force, 
may influence the world, and quicken and make strong the 
pulse of its spiritual life, and thus form a preparation and 
passage to the final state of the Church. But it is not this 
preliminary quickening, which may be upon the earth the 
prelude to the resurrection of the dead, and the final realising 
of all the powers of the kingdom of God, that is described by 
the expression 'life from the dead' ; it is this resurrection and 
final life itself this which the whole creation groaneth and 
waiteth for, which they who have received the first-fruits of 
the spirit groan for within themselves it is this which the 
conversion of the Jew shall be the prelude to ; and therefore 
to preach this conversion is most of all to preach the gospel 
to the weary Gentile world. 

Now, if I may be permitted to intercalate a practical 
remark, I should like to draw attention to the peculiarity of the 
apostle's reasoning in its bearing on missionary enterprise. 
As he argues, it seems really of little consequence whether the 
Church prosecute with success missions among the Jews or 
among the Gentiles. The two react upon one another. The 
apostle declares himself to be, most of all, the apostle of the 
Gentiles, when preaching to them the inbringing of the Jews. 


For the receiving again of the Jews is life from the dead ; and 
he who preaches it, and much more he who helps towards it, 
forwards in the highest way the blessedness and the final life 
of the Gentile world. At the same time, he who turns the 
Gentiles to God most profoundly affects the Jew, provoking 
him to 'jealousy,' and favouring his own turning to the faith. 

Nevertheless, it may be that the Jews shall not, as a 
whole, be received till the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. 
What then ? There is the remnant according to the gracious 
election. And who can say how great this may be ? In 
Elijah's days it was thought to have been reduced to one ; 
yet it was not one, but a great multitude, represented by the 
symbolical number 7000. And then the slender stream may 
widen out, becoming first a river, and then an arm of the sea, 
and at last the ocean 'the fulness.' Things take place gradu- 
ally. Violent commotions are not to be looked for. Those 
who expect anything sudden in the conversion of the world 
are probably under a delusion. Eevolutions of thought do not 
occur except in appearance, and to our eyes, from which the 
long advancing preparation has been hidden. The light may 
spread over Israel as calmly, and in such silence, as it spreads 
over the face of the moon, of which one at last exclaims in 
surprise : It is full. Only this is said of Israel, that it shall 
not be full, until another fulness has preceded it. But how 
nearly full is not defined. Thus, simultaneously with the 
incoming of the Gentiles, Israel may broaden also into fulness. 
And on the fulness of Israel follows life from the dead. It 
is the prelude of the resurrection. He, therefore, who labours 
here, labours for the highest reward for the crown of life 
itself. He removes the last obstacle that hinders the coming 
of the Lord. 

Thus, he who preaches the receiving again of the Jews 
preaches the gospel the glad tidings in the highest sense to 
the Gentiles ; for on their receiving again follows the resur- 
rection life. And, on the other hand, he who helps forward 


the conversion of the Gentiles, besides his direct work, be- 
comes indirectly the cause of the conversion of Israel. The 
Jew is provoked to jealousy by them that were not a people, 
but whom he now sees to be the people of God. The sight 
disquiets him, and awakens memories within him. It fills his 
inind with the profoundest emotions, with regrets that cannot 
be stifled, and a longing that he cannot repress, with a sorrow 
as over lost advantages and over a life thrown away, and with 
the thought of a blessedness lost to him, and now enjoyed by 
others. This is the jealousy which the sight of Gentile faith 
shall awaken. And it is evident that, the more extensive and 
the purer Gentile faith becomes, the more powerfully will it 
react upon the mind of the Jew. And thus there is no 
probability that the movement towards faith among this 
people will be delayed, till all the Gentile world be brought 
in. The reason why the present Christianity of the world 
has so little influence on the Jewish mind is to be found, no 
doubt, in its superficiality and insincerity. The Jew sees no 
real godliness in it, and it awakens in his mind nothing of 
what the apostle calls 'jealousy.' 

But to return to the apostle's argument. The principles 
on which he affirms this inbringiug of the Jews are import- 
ant : " If the first-fruits be holy, the lump is also holy : and 
if the root be holy, so are the branches." l " As concerning 
the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes : but as touching 
the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sake. For the 
gifts and calling of God are without repentance." 2 The root 
here said to be holy is, of course, the same as the ' fathers ' in 
the other verse, the early members of the covenant people, 
Abraham and others ; and the ' branches ' are the present Jews, 
the contemporaries of the apostle ; and it is asserted that the 
same holiness which distinguished the patriarchs of course, 
not personal holiness, but the consecration arising from God's 
estimate and act of choice also distinguishes their descend- 

1 Rom. 11 1G . 2 Kom. 11 2S - - !l . 


ants. The first-fruit could possess no qualities not possessed 
also by the lump, though, no doubt, it might possess them in 
some higher degree. 

The love of God given to the patriarchs is unalterable. 
" The gifts and the calling of God are without repentance." 
What God chose was the seed of Abraham, the lump. In 
it He founded His Church ; it He made His Church. For 
two millenniums it was the Church, the great root, so 
deeply embedded in the soil, and so grown over with age. 
At the apostle's epoch, this mighty root should have retained 
all its natural branches, the then living Jews; but some of 
them were broken off, most of them, yet not all. There 
were natural branches still. These were the true continua- 
tion of the root, the historic Church of God. Many wild 
olives were grafted in, partaking of the root and fatness of 
the olive tree. These were the Gentile believers, not inferior 
now in privilege, but not the same historic thing; more 
nourishing far than the natural branches, yet only grafts, not 
the natural branches, not the continuation of the root except 
by graft. But the natural branches broken off, God is able to 
graft in again ; and that He will is certain, for the gifts and 
the calling of God are without repentance. 

Now, does it not appear here that Paul is still handling 
Israel as a separate people ? They were so in his day, and 
he so speaks of them. He holds that prophecies which men- 
tion their names in the Old Testament refer to them as a 
separate people, distinct from the Gentiles. God's election of 
them distinguished them. He began His Church in them. 
He made them the firstborn. He called them to be in the 
Church, to be indeed the Church. This calling was without 
repentance. Any Gentile dream that they were cast off was 
vain. Hath God cast away His people ? God forbid. Does 
this not go further than a conversion of individuals as in- 
dividuals ? Does it not teach a corporate unity of Israel, 
which was in God's mind when He called them in Abraham ? 


Surely it is evident that the apostle considered this corporate 
unity to be still subsisting actually in his day, and to be 
going to subsist, till it again entered the Church actually, as 
it was always in it representatively as in himself, and virtu- 
ally in God's election of it, as the Church-people once for 
all, which did not stand to Him as other peoples did, but 
was the root into which the others were grafted. 

The distinction of Jew and Gentile was thus a distinction 
of God's creation. The prophecies of the Old Testament 
which refer to the last times still regard it as maintained. 
The New Testament not only thus interprets the Old, but 
itself expresses the same view. In many of the Old Testa- 
ment prophecies regarding the final state of the Church, the 
nations contemporary with the prophet are introduced as still 
subsisting. But these nations have long since disappeared. 
Hence history itself teaches us, when interpreting these 
prophecies, to modify them in this way. But, obviously, 
the distinction of Gentile nations among one another is not 
an essential distinction. The obliteration of some Gentile 
nations does not obliterate the Gentile world. And the 
antithesis is Jew and Gentile. We cannot reason from the 
obliteration of some distinctions in the Gentile world to the 
obliteration of this great distinction of Jew and Gentile. And 
the New Testament still considers the distinction valid, and 
destined to continue till the inbringing of the Jews. 

This is, no doubt, the way of speaking of the New Testa- 
ment. But of course one may ask, is this representation 
not a representation merely of things as they then were ? is 
it necessarily of essential meaning ? The prophets represent 
the end as coming in the relations of their time, with all the 
nations then surrounding them still subsisting ; may not the 
New Testament represent the end as coming in the relations 
then existing, without our being entitled to press the perma- 
nence of the relations ? It is probable that even the apostle 
represents the unbelief of the Jews as so brief as to terminate 


in the lifetime of the generation of then existing Jews ; for 
he says, " They have stumbled, but not that they should fall." 
Yet we know how many centuries their unbelief has endured, 
may his argument of their conversion in the relations then 
existing not permit in like manner of great alteration in these 
relations ? 

No doubt his argument may permit of great alterations, 
but would not this be an alteration of its very essence ? 
Perhaps here we must be thrown back upon presumptions. 
And some of these presumptions seem against an amalgama- 
tion of the Jews with other peoples prior to conversion. For 
those great momenta of God's redemptive operation, essential 
to the full display of the riches both of His wisdom and 
knowledge, namely, the rejection of the Jew, the reconciling 
of the Gentile world, and then the bringing again of the 
Jew, seem to imply that, in order to the march of the re- 
demptive providence being fully seen, the races must remain 
distinct. And it cannot be denied that the scope of Paul's 
language, as of all the Old Testament, is in favour of the 
same view. And where we have no certain grounds to go 
upon, it is reasonable to go upon presumptions. And if 
sufficient time have elapsed since the word of prophecy was 
uttered, regarding which we have only presumptions, to 
permit us to inquire towards which of the disputed fulfil- 
ments the ordinary providence of God in history seems point- 
ing, we ought also to make use of that, and add it or deduct 
it, according as it favours or opposes the presumptions already 
reached. And certainly the continued isolation of the Jews, 
and their refusal to amalgamate with the nations of the earth, 
is a weighty fact which we are entitled to throw into the 
scale on the side of the probabilities already found, that the 
Jews will remain distinct till conversion. 

These presumptions have, without doubt, a certain amount 
of weight. Yet, with regard to the first, we have seen that 
the three great momenta of the incoming of the fulness of the 


Gentiles, the receiving again of the Jews, and life from the 
dead, though three distinct things, may not necessarily stand 
out from one another as abrupt and visible phenomena, or as 
great successive spectacles. The first two, at least, may go 
on towards their fulfilment simultaneously. It is the function 
of prophecy to signalise the principles of God's government 
and administration of the economy of grace, to polarise, so 
to speak, the divine efficiency, and gather its operation, 
extending really through ages, into apparent points. But 
in actual fact such accumulations of divine force into points 
do not occur. It is only to the religious understanding and 
imagination that they appear in such a manner. The great 
principle of grace which the apostle sees illustrated in all 
God's treatment of men, namely, His concluding all in sin 
that He might have mercy upon all, will be made sufficiently 
conspicuous by the past unbelief of the heathen, and their 
present progress towards ultimate faith, and by the present 
unbelief of the Jews and their yet certain conversion, with- 
out the occurrence of anything resembling a catastrophe, or 
spectacular termination to the history of either process. 

And then, as to the other presumption, arising from the 
continued isolation of the people, though there is weight in it, 
it is perhaps less weighty than is supposed. For, on the one 
hand, there can be no doubt that in the past the nation of 
the Jews has largely amalgamated with other nations. The 
captive tribes returned, but in comparatively small numbers, 
to their native land after the Exile. They gradually lost 
themselves in the nationalities where they lived. And this 
process of amalgamation still goes on. And, on the other 
hand, a certain refusal to coalesce with other nations is not 
peculiar to the Jewish people. Nationalities with strong 
characteristics are difficult to kill. The vitality of certain 
small nationalities even in our own country is remarkable. 
Another striking example may be cited, namely, the 
Armenians, who are scattered in well - defined districts 


throughout the Turkish empire. Something may be done 
by such considerations to reduce the meaning of the con- 

oed illation of the Jews. Bur i: cannot be denied that 
i: remains a remarkable fact of history, and one that must 
be allowed to have considerable weight. 

The further presumption, arising from the manner in 

ich Paul still speaks of the people in opposition to the 
Grilles, taken in connection with :'..? Old Tesranient pro- 
phecies, in which there never appears an amalgamation of the 
.Iso great forcr. L-rtainly that extreme anti-literal 
interpretation which considers the names Zion. Jerusalem. 
Israel, and the like to be mere names for the . .ian 
Church, without i- ice fc :ae people of Israel, does no 

.5 rice either to the spirit of the Old Testament and 
principle, or to the principles on which the apostle reason. 
Therefore, what we I. .en of the Old Testament pro- 

phecies and of Paul's reasoning alike suggest some such 
principles of interpretation as these : 

1. When the prophets predict restoration of Israel to 
Z: n anc : n : their own land, these things are 

.. -ral in their mind at least They are not dealing with 
ideas merely, but with concrete things, with a literal people 
and with a literal land. This principle must be held firmly, 
or else no account can be given of the manner in which they 
speak. And it has been the office of the newer grammatical 
and historical method of interpreting the Old Testament, to 
insist on this in opposition to the older way of regarding 
these prophecies, which entirely disregarded the mind and 

^v of the prophets themselves, and transformed their 
phraseology into me: -sions representing spiritual 

ideas, in such a way that Israel became a mere symbol 
for Church of God, and Canaan a mere counter tha: 
for spiritual privileges. This method is historically false, and 
gives no account of the form of Scripture. 

'2. But when the prophets speak of Zion, Canaan.. Israel, 


and the like, they do not mean these physical things merely, 
or this people as a people, apart from the spiritual signifi- 
cance. They mean these things as having religious meaning, 
or along with the religious meaning which they had. They 
combine the two things. These physical things and this 
people had a spiritual meaning, and it is no doubt principally 
as having this spiritual meaning that the prophets speak of 
them. Israel is never, to them, a people among the peoples ; 
it is the Church of God. Canaan is never a mere earthly 
heritage ; it is God's gift to His people, the pledge and token 
of His favour, the sacramental symbol and seal of this, in 
enjoying which they realised to themselves that they enjoyed 
His favour. 

Now, of course, the conditions of God's treatment of His 
Church might change. The time might come when He de- 
sired to throw them more directly upon the spirituality of 
His favour, and therefore withdrew from them the outward 
token of it, namely, the possession of Canaan. Whenever God 
should extend the blessings of His salvation to other nations 
besides Israel, then Israel would have no more the exclusive 
privilege of being His people. If such a change should come, 
as we believe it has come, it is manifest that the prophetic 
language, while it lost its particularity, as embracing the 
physical things, would still be true on its spiritual side, 
which, of course, is its main side. Now, it is plain that this 
way of interpreting the Old Testament is adopted in the 
New, particularly by Paul, who says that they that are of 
faith are the children of Abraham, whether they be Jews or 
Gentiles, and heirs according to the promise. 

3. But this mode of interpretation must not be pushed to 
an extreme, resulting in falsehood, which it is when Israel as 
the natural end of Abraham is obliterated, and ' Church ' sub- 
stituted in its stead. This is contrary to the apostolic reason- 
ing. The Gentiles are fellow-heirs with Israel, and of the same 
body ; but they do not thrust out Israel. Israel is still there, 


and the Gentiles are merely grafted into its stock. In Jesus 
Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek ; but there are both 
Jews and Greeks, Jews first, and also Greeks. The Church 
of God is continuous. It is not a new Church in Christ, only 
a perfect universal Church. 

Now, this conception, which is that of the apostle, allows 
justice to be done to the prophets of the Old Testament. 
When Isaiah, for example, predicts that " out of Zion shall 
go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem," 
or when He says again to Israel, " Thy seed shall inherit the 
Gentiles," his language is true. The latter statement is not 
to be metamorphosed and crushed into the featureless expres- 
sion, ' The Church shall make conquests among the nations.' 
It is Israel, the Church, that makes these conquests. The 
Church was founded in Israel, and Israel remains in it ; its 
vigour is from Israel. He who is the life of the Church was 


Israel. What the prophets affirm is that Israel, as the 
Church, shall be the light of the world. It is to misinterpret 
them and the Apostle Paul alike to construe them as meaning 
merely the Church, without inclusion of Israel as the historical 
stem of it. Now, this is how Paul argues that Israel is the 
stem of the Church and is holy, i.e. is still in covenant with 
God, not out of the Church, although many natural branches 
be broken off, but beloved for the fathers' sakes. It is on 
this principle that Paul infers the universal conversion of 

4. But the ground being thus far cleared, there still 
remains the question about the literal restoration of Israel 
to Canaan, and whether the apostle gives any countenance to 
it. Now, this question turns on certain phrases which the 
apostle uses, and on the general scope of his reasoning. The 
phrases he uses are : " Even so then at this present time 
there is a remnant according to the election of grace " ; l ;< If 
the root be holy, so also are the branches " ; 2 " As touching 

iRom. II 5 . " Rom. II 16 


the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sake " ; " The 
gifts and the calling of God are without repentance." x These 
expressions imply at least the general idea in the apostle's 
mind, that Israel, though unbelieving, has not ceased to be 
to God what it ever was ; that their unbelief cannot make 
the promises of God of none effect ; that His choice of Israel, 
once made, is irrevocable ; and that the same character of 
holiness, i.e. sacredness, attaches to the existing Israelites as 
belonged to their forefathers, the patriarchs, in a word, that 
the covenant with Israel still subsists, and shall inevitably 
secure its purposes. 

The whole question is, however, what really was the 
covenant ? and what effects was it designed to secure ? As 
the apostle gives no answer to this question in its general 
form, we can only infer his view from observing to what 
effects he argues upon the covenant. Now, he certainly 
argues only towards spiritual effects. He infers the con- 
version of Israel, but not one word escapes him about their 
restoration to Canaan. 

In his interesting work upon the restoration of the Jews, 
Dr. David Brown lays hold upon the phrase used with regard 
to the believing remnant in the apostle's days, ' election of 
grace,' and argues that this is a different kind of election 
from that spoken of when the apostle says, " as touching the 
election, they are beloved for the fathers' sake." The latter 
he understands to be the national election, the other to be 
that election of individuals whose operation secures its ends 
within the wider circle of the national. And he argues that 
as it is upon this wider national election that the apostle 
reasons, and bases his belief of Israel's conversion as a whole, 
that conversion shall be a national conversion ; and not only 
this, but as this national election was one provision of the 
Abrahamic covenant, he concludes that the apostle's argu- 
ment may be justly extended over the other provisions of 

'Rom. II 28 - 29 - 


the covenant, one of which was the perpetual possession of 
the land. 

There is undoubtedly some ground for the distinction 
between the two elections here drawn, for the apostle says 
that " they are not all Israel which are of Israel." l But 
I question whether Dr. Brown's general argument is a 
sound one. His argument is, that the election of grace is 
an election that secures spiritual privileges, namely, faith and 
its advantages. But besides this, there is a national election. 
Now, one asks to what end is this national election ? What 
privileges does it secure ? If he reply, the external privileges, 
such as a continued existence as a nation, and the heritage of 
Canaan, then Dr. Brown's argument may be good ; but if so, 
he shows the apostle's argument to be bad, because it is upon 
this national election that the apostle founds his inference for 
Israel's conversion, as he says : " And so all Israel shall be 
saved." 2 

My impression is that the idea of a double election 
is not present here. The one election referred to is the 
election of grace, an election effective in the meantime, i.e. 
while the apostle wrote, to the faith of a remnant, but soon 
to widen out in its effects so as to manifest itself over 
the whole people. In other words, the apostle regards the 
Abrahamic covenant as a purely spiritual transaction, con- 
templating at the time when it conies into perfect realisation, 
i.e. in Christianity, only spiritual ends. We must carry with 
us, in estimating the apostle's argument, the remembrance 
both of the circumstances in which he wrote, and his views as 
to how soon these circumstances were to change on the 
coming of Christ which was imminent, and his idea, else- 
where expressed, of the Abrahamic covenant, and particularly 
of the time when it came into operation. When the apostle 
wrote, the body of the Jewish people were unbelieving, the 
bulk of the natural branches of the good olive tree had been 

. 9 6 . 2 Rom. II 26 . 


broken off; but there were many believers, at least as many 
as in Elijah's days, keeping up the continuity of Israel in the 
Church. The unbelievers had stumbled, but not in order to 
fall. They as living men, individuals, would recover them- 
selves and turn ere the coming of the great and terrible day 
of the Lord, however imminent that coming might be. 

The apostle argues upon the covenant with Abraham, 
and infers from it the conversion of Israel to Christ. But 
the covenant as given in Gen. 17 contains also a promise 
that the land of Canaan shall be given to the seed of 
Abraham for an eternal possession. The apostle does not 
refer to this. But those who plead for the restoration of the 
Jews to Canaan, argue that the apostle's reasoning may fairly 
be extended to all the elements of the covenant, and there- 
fore to the promise of the land. Are they entitled to plead 
the apostle's authority ? Certainly not his direct authority ; 
only, at most, the analogy of his reasoning. But would he 
have acquiesced even in this ? It seems to me doubtful. 
For what is the apostle's view of the Abrahamic covenant ? 
His view ought to be well known. That transaction did not 
acquire its validity, till Christ came. " Now to Abraham and 
to his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to 
seeds, as of many ; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is 
Christ." 1 The reasoning here may be encumbered with 
difficulty, but the scope of it is perspicuous enough. The cove- 
nant with Abraham became valid when Christ came, and in 
the apostle's view it was a purely spiritual agreement, and 
contemplated exclusively spiritual ends. But does not this 
introduce falsehood on the other side ? How, on such a view, 
are the other stipulations and promises of the covenant, such 
as the heritage of the land, to be explained ? 

Now, suppose we should not be able to explain this, it is 
proper to retain firmly in our minds the Pauline view, and to 
remember that he at least carries on his reasoning exclusively 

1 Gal. 3 16 . 


on the spiritual side of the covenant, or on the covenant as 
spiritual, and to be ready to point out to those who carry on 
a similar argument to his on the temporal stipulations of the 
covenant, that they do so on their own responsibility, and 
cannot plead Paul's example, because it is just to beg the 
whole question to say, as Dr. Brown says, that the apostolic 
reasoning which is carried on in regard to spiritual things 
may be extended to temporal things. The question, What 
view, then, would the apostle have taken of the meaning of 
the gift of the land ? may not be easy at once to answer. 
The usual explanation, of course, is to regard it as a type of 
spiritual possessions ; or, if not a type, a symbol, helping 
the people to realise God's favour for them, of which it 
was a material proof, a token and seal ; a thing needful to 
them in their condition, when they could not realise God's 
favour without some material token of it. It is not certain, 
however, that this is the apostle's view. In another passage 
he says : " For the promise, that he should be the heir of 
the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the 
law, but through the righteousness of faith." a 

The usual way in which the difficulty is removed, is to 
say that the temporal provisions of the covenant were typical, 
i.e. prophetic of spiritual things. This, you perceive, makes 
these temporal things themselves have a spiritual meaning at 
all times, and lifts them up really into the spiritual element 
of the covenant ; so that, though in themselves, of course, 
temporal things, it was not in this aspect of them that they 
entered the covenant, but as having a spiritual significance, 
and as pointing to the future. And the thing itself being 
come, to which they pointed, they have now themselves fallen 

But even if we should not hold this strictly typical mean- 
ing of these things, that is, look at them as having future 
reference, but consider them symbols, and rather means of 

1 Rom. 4 13 . 


presenting to the minds of early believers the reality of 
God's presence with them, and His goodness to them, in a way